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A Centennial History 

Director and Librarian, Boston Athenasum 

Illustrations by RUDOLPH RUZICKA 

Cambridge, Massachusetts 



Copyright, 1956, 
by the President and Fellows of Harvard College 

Distributed in Great Britain by Geoffrey Cumberlege, 
Oxford University Press, London 

library of Congress Catalog Card Number 56-6528 



JUSTIN WINSOR, who became Superintendent of the Boston Public 
Library in 1868 after one year as a Trustee (and a dozen years of 
literary work), once remarked, in the idiom of his native Duxbury: 
"It was by much the same process as in the New England seaboard 
towns, in old times, a young man sometimes attained command of 
a ship without apprenticeship before the mast, by 'crawling in 
through the cabin windows*, that I got so conspicuous a place in the 
librarian's calling." 

When I became Librarian of the Boston Athenaeum in 1946, 
with two decades of using libraries in the pursuit of history as my 
chief experience, I similarly attained command without apprentice- 
ship before the mast. I cannot claim to have "crawled in through 
the cabin windows" for in a sense I had begun my adult life inside, 
as a cabin-boy. From 1918 to 19 20 I passed two dreary years in the 
Boston Latin School, which were chiefly bearable because twice 
daily, on my way to and from the gloomy red brick monster at the 
corner of Warren Avenue and Dartmouth Street, I passed the 
Boston Public Library and, on most afternoons, went in. I had 
known and loved the building for at least ten years, for the visits 
to Dr. Geoffrey Brackett in Newbury Street that had punctuated my 
earliest years invariably concluded with a climb up the Siena marble 
staircase of the library to visit the dignified lions that guard the 
landing while bearing witness to the Civil War valor of the Second 
and Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry regiments. Dr. 
Brackett had assured me that if I pulled the lions' tails, they might 
roar, and I never failed to try. At about this same period, my future 
wife, escaping from a maid who had escorted her to the dentist, 
hauled herself up by the paint-brush and attempted to sit in the lap 
of Bela Pratt's bronze personification of Art, outside on the terrace, 
only to be reprimanded by a frock-coated and helmeted policeman 
with ginger colored whiskers, who had abandoned the direction of 
traffic at Huntington Avenue and Dartmouth Street for the purpose. 
We did not meet, however, for another fifteen years. 


The Boston Latin School thirty-five years ago suited my tempera- 
ment so poorly that I welcomed the daily opportunity to escape to 
the third floor of the Public Library, where I could wallow to my 
heart's content in architectural accounts of the palaces of Versailles. 
I recall vividly poring over Arnott and Wilson's measured drawings 
of the Petit Trianon; the freedom with which similar folios were 
delivered to a small boy in his early teens seems, in retrospect, to 
show remarkable sympathy and faith on the part of the attendants 
in the Fine Arts Department. 

One day in the winter of 1919 I fell into conversation with the 
late Frank A. Bourne, who had temporarily deserted his architec- 
tural practice to bring about some changes in the Fine Arts Depart- 
ment of the Library. We became good friends, as can so readily 
happen when an older person has the imagination to treat a small 
boy like a contemporary who knows what he is about, and when 
Mr. Bourne one day offered me a job I jumped at the chance. There 
was the slight formality of an entrance examination, but, as that 
could easily have been passed by anyone able to read and write, I 
was soon a very junior member of the Boston Public Library staff, 
hunting for mislaid books and doing odd chores in the Fine Arts 
Department after school. It is extraordinarily pleasant to do what 
you most enjoy and have other people not only consider it work, but 
pay you for it! That thought has often crossed my mind during the 
last eight years in the Athenaeum, and as I look back to my brief em- 
ployment in the Boston Public Library I view it in the same terms, 
even though my weekly wages ranged from a high of $2.50 to a low 
of eighty-one cents! Moreover, that period did give me the profes- 
sional respectability of at least 'beginning in a library. 

Three years' service on the Examining Committee always gave 
me the sensation of revisiting an old friend, and the amiable request 
of the Trustees that I prepare a centennial history of the Public Li- 
brary has furnished me a welcome excuse to explore the family his- 
tory and background of that old friend. That request is also typical 
of the harmonious relations that exist between Boston institutions. 
The Boston Athenasum will be a century and a half old in 1957. 
Twice in its forties it declined offers of marriage from the infant 
Public Library, yet though the infant has grown into a veritable 


Herakles, with more arms than the god Siva, there have never been 
any hard feelings. The two libraries have gone their separate ways, 
yet it is characteristic that the Director of the Athenaeum should be 
given the privilege of recording the history of the Public Library. 

This book is purely an institutional history that does not attempt 
to reflect the development of the public library movement. In very 
recent years Jesse H. Shera's Foundations of the Public Library: The 
Origins of the Public Library Movement in New England, 1629- 
1855 and C. Seymour Thompson's Evolution of the American Pub- 
lic Library, 1653-1876 have dealt with the background, while Sid- 
ney Ditzion's Arsenals of a Democratic Culture has explored the so- 
cial circumstances of the public library movement from 1850 to 
1900. I am indebted to Francis Gilman Collier for permission to 
read his unpublished Harvard Ph.D. thesis of 1951, entitled A His- 
tory of the American Public Library Movement through 1880. The 
investigations of these four scholars makes winnowing of their fields 
superfluous. Moreover, the numerous and full quotations from pub- 
lic documents in Horace G. Wadlin's The Public Library of the 
City of Boston, a History, published in 1911, hardly require repe- 
tition in their entirety. As my chief sources have been the reports 
and other official records of the library itself, supplemented by the 
manuscript (T.R. 25.59) "Annals of the Public Library of the City 
of Boston from the year 1848 to its removal to the new edifice in 
Copley Square" by William Whitwell Greenough, a Trustee from 
i856toi888, it has not seemed necessary to indulge in a wealth of 
citation, and I have contented myself with simple bibliographical 
references to other sources at the ends of certain chapters. 


Boston Athenaeum 
i July 1954 















INDEX 265 


MAIN LIBRARY Frontispiece 















"Out of Small Beginnings" 

The City of Boston is hereby authorized to estab- 
lish and maintain a public library, for the use of 
the inhabitants of the said city . . . provided, 
however, that no appropriation for the said li- 
brary shall exceed the sum of five thousand dollars 
in any one year. 


SINCE the Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentenary in 1930, simi- 
lar observances have crowded upon each other. Three-hundredth 
anniversaries of the foundation of towns, churches, and educational 
institutions have become so numerous that it is hard to realize that 
a simple centenary marks the true age of one of the most completely 
accepted and characteristic features of our daily life. In the United 
States of today a public library, supported by citizens through their 
own taxes, is by common consent as usual and necessary a part of 
an established community as a church or a school, yet the Boston 
Public Library the pioneer in this movement first opened its 
doors to readers in the spring of 1854. 

To understand the rarity of libraries in the American scene in 
the mid-nineteenth century, one must turn, as is so often necessary, 
to a singularly dreary-looking government document Notices of 
Public Libraries in the United States of America by Charles C. 
Jewett, Librarian of the Smithsonian Institution, published in 1851 
as an appendix to the Fourth Annual Report of the Board of Regents 
of the Smithsonian Institution. Working from answers received from 
broadcast circular letters and from published accounts, Jewett pre- 
pared a description, state by state, of those libraries that he con- 
sidered public in that they "are accessible either without restric- 


tion, or upon conditions with which all can easily comply to every 
person who wishes to use them for their appropriate purposes." The 
whole number of such libraries in the United States, exclusive of 
those of the public schools, was, according to Jewett's calculation, 
694, with an aggregate of 2,201,632 volumes. Of the 694, 271 
libraries contained less than a thousand volumes each, while only 
five in the entire country reached a total of 50,000 volumes each. 
Of these five, two were in greater Boston Harvard University 
(84,200) and the Boston Athenaeum (50,000) while Yale Col- 
lege possessed 50,481 volumes, the Philadelphia Library Company 
60,000, and the Library of Congress 50,000. Numerically the re- 
sources of Boston libraries exceeded those of any other city, for the 
fifteen collections that Jewett recorded within the city proper, plus 
the Harvard University Library across the river in Cambridge, to- 
talled 198,009 volumes, while New York City showed 186,567, 
Philadelphia 162,433 and the District of Columbia 1 1 1,573. More- 
over Jewett commended Boston quality as well as quantity, for he ob- 
served of the Athenaeum: "The library is hardly surpassed, either in 
size or in value, by any other in the country; and its regulations are 
framed with the design that it shall answer the highest purposes of 
a public library. Practically it is such." 

From Jewett's picture, Boston was singularly fortunate, yet, as in 
the parable of the talents "for unto every one that hath shall be 
given, and he shall have abundance" there had been for twenty- 
five years intermittent agitation for more books and better libraries. 
The arch-agitator, who in the end superbly accomplished his pur- 
pose, was George Ticknor (1791-1871), Smith Professor of the 
French and Spanish Languages in Harvard College and historian of 
Spanish literature. Elected a Trustee of the Athenaeum in 1823, 
Ticknor not only gave both time and money to the advancement of 
the library, but evolved a plan for uniting all Boston libraries into 
one. Writing to Daniel Webster on 2 February 1826 he confided 
his hopes: 

We are making quite a movement about libraries, lecture-rooms, 
Athenaeum, etc. I have a project, which may or may not succeed; 
but I hope it will. The project is, to unite into one establishment, 
viz. the Athenaeum, all the public libraries in town; such as the 


Arch Library, the Medical Library, the new Scientific Library, and 
so on, and then let the whole circulate, Athenaeum and all. In this 
way, there will be an end of buying duplicates, paying double 
rents, double librarians, etc.; the whole money raised will go to 
books, and all the books will be made useful. To this great estab- 
lishment I would attach all the lectures wanted, whether fashion- 
able, popular, scientific for the mechanics or their employers; 
and have the whole made a Capitol of the knowledge of the town, 
with its uses, which I would open to the public, according to the 
admirable direction in the Charter of the University of Gottingen. 
Quam commodissime quamque latissime. Mr. Prescott, Judge 
Jackson, Dr. Bowditch, and a few young men are much in earnest 
about it. 

The project did not succeed, but Ticknor continued to support the 
Athenaeum, serving as a Trustee until 1832 and as Vice President 
for the year 1833. Soon after the death of a beloved son in 1834, 
Ticknor resigned the Smith Professorship in which he was suc- 
ceeded by Longfellow and for several years lived abroad, travelling 
in England and on the continent. When he came home in 1838, 
Ticknor did not return to a place on the Athenaeum board, but his 
good will seemingly continued, for in 1848 he was among the sub- 
scribers who bought from Henry Stevens of Vermont a major por- 
tion of George Washington's library and gave it to the Athenaeum, 
The next proposal for unifying Boston libraries came from a very 
different and less responsible source, Alexandra Vattemare, a native 
of Lisieux who, after achieving international distinction as a ven- 
triloquist under the stage name of Monsieur Alexandra, had quite 
surprisingly become obsessed with a grandiose scheme for the in- 
ternational exchange of books and the building of public libraries. 
The occupations seem hardly in character, but one can only suppose 
that, having achieved wide notice on the stage, Vattemare longed 
for less ephemeral recognition of his talents, much as Hollywood 
artists today set up as art collectors and popular novelists hanker 
after the trades of the historian and the editor. Two more different 
characters could hardly be imagined than the scholarly Ticknor, 
commodiously installed in the dignified red brick house that still 
survives, sadly mutilated by excrescent shop windows, at the corner 
of Park and Beacon Streets in the shadow of the State House, and 


the volatile little French ventriloquist, touring Europe and collecting 
in an "Album Cosmopolite" tributes to his theatrical prowess from 
the Emperors of Austria and Russia, Queen Victoria, Beethoven, 
Victor Hugo, Landseer, and ten thousand others. When Vattemare 
arrived in New York in October 1839 he filled the Park Theatre and 
carried to another continent the powers of mimicry that had won 
him applause in most of the countries of western Europe. But his 
travels in the United States and Canada from 1839 to 1841 were 
chiefly devoted to furthering his self -invented and seemingly disin- 
terested "system"' that was "designed to give the intellectual treasures 
of the cultivated world the same dissemination and equalization 
which commerce has already given to its material ones" and that 
would lead, so he hoped, to "the establishment in every quarter of 
the world of free libraries and museums ever open to the use of the 
people." Had he but lived a few decades later, Vattemare's promo- 
tional instincts would have met their proper outlet in a chamber of 
commerce or an advertising agency, for there were few limits to 
the expansiveness of his imagination or his ready adaptation to any 
opening that presented itself. International exchanges of books and 
works of art were to lead to free institutions that would sooner or 
later bring about a kind of high-minded millennium. It was all so 
simple! Even in a rude frontier, lacking books for exchange, one 
need not be excluded from his happy and improving enterprise. In 
this vein Vattemare wrote to the Mercantile Library of San Francisco 
in 1854: 

It is therefore your natural curiosities, the strangest productions of 
your soils, the beautiful inhabitants of your forests and waters, 
and your monstrous and extraordinary fossil remains that Europe 
expects in return. Give us a bullfrog or a rattlesnake for the best 
moral and philosophical works, an alligator for a cast of the Venus 
de Milo, etc. 

Buildings, adapted to a variety of municipal and benevolent pur- 
poses, would spring up. A visit to Montreal produced in Vattemare's 
fertile mind the pattern of a "suitable and elegant" structure, com- 
prising the following elements: 

FIRST, The basement, on a slope of a hill if possible, would 
furnish a lecture room and for other purposes. 


SECONDLY, The ground floor would furnish rooms for the Mu- 
seum Keeper, or other Officers connected with the 

THIRDLY, The first floor would contain a Merchant's Ex- 
change, a Post Office, and a room for the Trinity 

FOURTHLY, On the second floor there would be a City Hall, of 
good dimensions, Treasurer's, Surveyor's and Town 
Clerk's Offices and Committee Rooms. 

FIFTHLY, On the third floor would be placed the Public Li- 
brary, Chamber of Arts and other Offices. 

SIXTHLY, In the attic would be a Museum, lit by means of a 
lantern in a dome. 

When this whirlwind descended upon Boston in the spring of 
1841, he began a campaign to unite the dozen or more existing li- 
braries of the city into a single institution. The merchants' clerks 
and other aspiring youths who frequented the Boston Mercantile 
Library an estimable institution founded in 1820 to incite self- 
improvement among what were then called "the younger members 
of the commercial classes" provided an audience ripe for the har- 
vest. At a meeting in their rooms on Saturday evening, 24 April 
1841, Vattemare bared his soul at considerable length to such effect 
that his audience was inspired to move a set of extended and turgid 
resolutions, the drift of which will be sufficiently clear from the 
following extracts: 

RESOLVED, That we have listened with great delight to Mr. Vatte- 
mare's plan of forming a great public Literary and Scientific Insti- 
tution in this city, by uniting our various Libraries and collections 
in Science and the Fine Arts; and we think such an institution 
would benefit the great body of the people, by opening to all the 
treasures of Science, Literature and Art, by breaking down the 
factitious distinctions which separate class from class, by dissemi- 
nating knowledge and taste through every portion of our popula- 
tion, and by the influence it would have in the promotion of uni- 
versal education. 


RESOLVED, That we regard the system of National Interchange 
suggested by Mr. Vattemare, as one which will tend to remove na- 
tional and sectional prejudices, will promote the great cause of 
peace, and the first principle of religion, by uniting all nations in 
intellectual brotherhood; as one which by making each state and 
nation a participant in the other's productions, will bring about a 
kind of mental commerce which cannot fail to promote universal 
civilization; and we think that the glorious success which has so 
far attended Mr. Vattemare's labors in this department of his com- 
prehensive plan, and the general favor with which the system has 
been received by eminent men in all countries, affords us sufficient 
assurances that it can be achieved in this City, if the public mind 
be awakened to a sense of its importance , . . 

RESOLVED, That as Boston has the reputation of being the first 
literary city in the Union, it behooves her citizens not to jeopardize 
that reputation by refusing to do what other cities with less preten- 
sions have triumphantly achieved. 

RESOLVED, That Mr, Vattemare's plan having received the en- 
couragement, and been stamped with the approbation of the most 
eminent sovereigns, statesmen, and literary men of Europe, from 
the Sultan of Turkey to La Fayette and La Martine of the Pres- 
ident, Chief Justice, and both Houses of Congress of our own 
country and moreover as it is a plan, to carry out which all par- 
ties, and religions, and sects, cheerfully unite we may be par- 
doned in saying as all the eminent men in this city and vicinity 
who have examined its claims, have said that the plan is prac- 
ticable, is worthy the attention of every man who has a faculty to 
educate, or a child whom he desires should grow to the intellectual 
stature of manhood, is replete with advantages to every person in 
the community, however humble his station, and should stimulate 
the zealous, energetic, and persevering exertions of the great body 
of the people, 

RESOLVED, That a Committee of twelve be appointed from this 
meeting, to correspond with the influential men in this commu- 
nity, for the purpose of soliciting them to call a meeting of the 
citizens at Faneuil Hall, to consider the subject in all its bear- 
ings . . . 

The result of this happy occasion was a meeting on 5 May at the 
Masonic Temple, rather than Faneuil Hall, presided over by Mayor 
Jonathan Chapman. Vattemare once again outlined his proposals, 


"the whole thing going off with immensely greater effect than I 
could have conceived possible," as the not easily aroused Charles 
Francis Adams entered in his diary. Vattemare had, incidentally, 
obliged by an entertainment of ventriloquism at Mr. Adams's house 
the previous evening, holding the attention of the company until 
nearly midnight. At the close of the Masonic Temple meeting, Vatte- 
mare was thanked "for his interesting, instructive, and eloquent ex- 
position of his noble project" and a committee consisting of Mr. 
Adams, Dr. Walter Channing, Josiah Quincy, Jr., the Reverend 
Ezra S. Gannett, and the Reverend George Washington Blagden 
was appointed to consider the practicability of the plan. The com- 
mittee met on several occasions, but without major accomplishment. 
After the second meeting Adams noted in his diary: "Vattemare ad- 
mitted that everything had been commenced everywhere, but noth- 
ing had been done." 

A circular letter was sent by the committee to fifteen Boston insti- 
tutions to inquire whether they would be disposed to cooperate 

. . . if a union of the principal literary associations, and those for 
the promotion of the arts and sciences, could be effected under a 
single roof with suitable accommodations to make their various col- 
lections as available to the public of Boston as can be, consistently 
with their safety. 

A tentative plan, accompanying this letter, proposed a building to 
be "erected directly by the citizens, or by the government of the 
City" that would house a library, collections of natural history and 
the arts, and provide a hall for public lectures and rooms for the 
meetings of societies. In this building, which was to "be the property 
of the people," it was proposed that existing literary, scientific and 
artistic institutions should not only place their collections, but sur- 
render title to them. Future support was to come from annual sub- 
scriptions for "the use of the institution as a circulating library," 
from "the interest of such property as the several institutions may 
surrender," from fines for the late return of books, rents from the 
lecture hall, and a tax levy by the city "on the same principle which 
now induces the citizens to tax themselves for the support of public 
schools." It is a tribute to the almost hypnotic power of Vattemare's 


eloquence that five hard-headed New England individualists in- 
cluding an Adams even imagined that their friends and neighbors 
might so far succumb to emotion as to surrender property painfully 
accumulated for specific learned purposes over many decades to a 
promotional scheme of this kind. 

William T. Andrews, Edward Wigglesworth, and N. I. Bowditch, 
who were appointed by the Boston Athenaeum to consider the pro- 
posal, reported on 12 July 1841 that they were 

. . . unanimously of opinion that there are insuperable objections 
to the adoption of this measure by the Boston Athenaeum. These 
various objections they do not think it necessary to state in detail. 
While the Committee would be happy to extend somewhat more 
widely than at present the benefits of the Institution, they believe 
that even now much fewer instances occur than might be sup- 
posed of deserving individuals who are desirous of obtaining access 
to the Athenaeum and are unable to do so. Regarding our institu- 
tion as a moderate sized circulating library, the Committee believe 
that it is only by a limited number of proprietors that its advan- 
tages can be conveniently and fully enjoyed. Should it be thrown 
open, as a circulating library, to tie public or to all who should 
pay an annual sum, and without possessing any duplicates, it 
would in the opinion of your committee be of far less value than at 

A public library, open to all our citizens, would undoubtedly be 
highly desirable. Such a one may with propriety be established 
without absorbing all similar private institutions. The advantages 
of each are in a great degree separate and distinct. On the whole, 
therefore, the Committee are decidedly of opinion that it is not 
expedient to adopt the proposed measure, either in view of the in- 
terests of the proprietors or of the public. 

The Boston Society of Natural History, through its president, 
George B. Emerson, expressed cautiously qualified approval in No- 
vember. They strongly stated the opinion that the building must be 
"erected by means independent of the societies." 

We hold that six hundred dollars a year devoted to the increase of 
our library and scientific collections, though they must be kept in 
the poorest rooms, provided they are accessible and capacious 
enough to contain and exhibit them, would be better than half that 


sum devoted to a library and museum in halls that should cost half 
a million. We maintain that the proposition which is often laid 
down, that if large and noble buildings be provided, generous men 
will easily be found to furnish them with books, instruments and 
the other apparatus for knowledge, is refuted by the uniform and 
universal experience of the whole country. 

Although there would be advantages to a common building erected 
at the public expense, and great merit in a single responsible li- 
brarian or keeper "a good librarian is the soul of a library" never- 
theless special restrictions would have to govern the use of scientific 
specimens and books. 

The Mechanic Apprentices Library Association, having less at 
stake, cheerfully climbed aboard the bandwagon, while the Boston 
Marine Society and the Society for Medical Improvement courte- 
' ously explained their inability to give corporate support. It is sig- 
nificant that the other ten recipients, including the American Acad- 
emy of Arts and Sciences, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the 
American Antiquarian Society and the Lowell Institute, did not even 
bother to reply. In view of this tepid response, the committee dis- 
charged itself from further consideration of the subject, and Charles 
Francis Adams moved that its report be deposited with the Mer- 
cantile Library Association, which had instigated the commotion in 
the first place, to ff bring the subject before the community whenever 
favorable circumstances shall occur." 

Alas for personal magnetism, the enthusiasm generated by Vatte- 
mare's eloquence subsided with his return to Europe, and although 
in 1843 he transmitted some fifty volumes as a gift from the City of 
Paris to Boston, little happened until his second visit to the United 
States (1847-1849). Vattemare inspired such contradictory senti- 
ments in his contemporaries that it is uncommonly difficult to assess 
the significance of the Frenchman's activities in Boston. Even the 
more conservative Bostonians have been occasionally aroused by the 
arrival of versatile Europeans who pressed intellectual projects with 
evangelical fervor; witness the remarkable accomplishments of Louis 
Agassiz in creating the Museum of Comparative Zoology out of 
nothing in the late fifties and early sixties. While Agassiz swept all, 
even the General Court, before him there is the story of the state 


legislator sadly observing, "Agassiz is going to speak to us tomorrow. 
I wish he wouldn't. We can't afford to give him anything now, but 
after we have heard him we will!" Vattemare aroused both dev- 
otees and detractors. Josiah Quincy, Jr., who served as Mayor of 
Boston from December 1845 to January 1849, believed in Vatte- 
mare's plan so thoroughly as to offer personal support. This enthu- 
siasm carried over into the next generation, for his son, Josiah P. 
Quincy, writing in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical 
Society for November 1884 about Vattemare, who had died twenty 
years earlier, observed: 

The idea of establishing a free library in this City seemed to per- 
vade him to his fingers' ends. He followed it up with a vehemence 
which might well startle the guardians of the sluggish proprieties. 
He pursued the Mayor with visits and by correspondence; he 
wrought upon that functionary to make a conditional offer of 
$5,000 towards providing books for the library, and to see that a 
petition was sent to the Legislature for permission to levy taxes for 
its support. 

On the other hand, Robert C. Winthrop, reminiscing about the 
foundation of the library in a letter of 17 November 1871 to Justin 
Winsor, wrote: 

Our friend Mr. Ticknor was not a little unwilling to have Vatte- 
mare's name connected with the Library, regarding him as a Charl- 
atan, as, indeed, we all did. I cannot forget how Mr. T. winced 
when I read to him my allusion to Vattemare on the 23d page of 
the Cornerstone Proceedings, and how earnestly he said "I would 
not say a word about him/' 

Henry Stevens, who was then purchasing Americana abroad for 
John Carter Brown and James Lenox, flatly denounced one aspect 
of Vattemare's system of international exchanges as "an insignificant 
humbug," Stevens, who knew his books and whose Vermont origins 
endowed him with a resistance to sales appeal, minced no words 
when he wrote: 

In Paris Mr. Alexandre has long time been considered a charlatan 
and his system of international exchange is thought to be only a 
substitute for Ms worn-out voice for ventriloquism. 


Nevertheless, it was Vattemare's activity, resulting in a second gift 
of books from Paris to Boston, that provided the next step. The re- 
ceipt of this second collection, "consisting of rare and useful works 
relating to internal police, general and local statistics and history, 
illustrated with engravings, and making a collection of nearly one 
hundred volumes/' led the Boston City Council in August 1847 to 
appoint a Joint Special Committee, consisting of Mayor Quincy, 
Aldermen Wetmore and Parker, and Councilmen Hillard, Carter, 
Thayer and Eaton, to "consider and report what acknowledgment 
and return should be made to the City of Paris for its gift of books 
and provide a place for the same/' This group, reporting in October 
1 847, recommended the installation of the Paris gifts, and others 
that might be received, in a room on the third floor of City Hall 
the granite structure in Court Square built in 1835 as a Court 
House, and occupied as a City Hall from 1841 until the building 
of the present one was begun upon the same site in 1862. The first 
concrete proposal backed by cash Mayor Quincy 's anonymous offer 
for the establishment of a public library in Boston appeared in 
this report. 

The Committee cannot close their report without recommending 
to the City Council a consideration of the propriety of commencing 
a public library. Many of the citizens would, they believe, be happy 
to contribute both in books and money to such an object and tie 
Committee are informed that a citizen, who wishes that his name 
may be concealed, has offered the sum of $5,000 for the purpose 
of making the commencement, on condition only that $10,000 are 
raised at large for the same purpose and that the library should be 
as fully used by all, as may be consistent with the safe-keeping of 
the property. 

By order of 18 October 1847, Mayor Quincy was authorized to ac- 
knowledge the gift of the City of Paris, and to solicit and transmit 
books as a gift in return, while the City Council appointed a Joint 
Special Committee on the Public Library, consisting of the Mayor, 
two Aldermen and five Councilmen. The Council further ordered, 
on 22 November 1847, 

That the joint special committee on the public library be directed 
to inquire into the expediency of applying to the legislature for the 


power to establish, regulate, and control a library for the free use 
of every citizen, with power to appropriate any sum not exceed- 
ing dollars, whenever a like sum shall be secured and 

placed in the hands of the city government by private subscription. 
The said committee to fill the blank with such sum as they deem 

The Joint Special Committee reported favorably on 6 December 
1847 regarding the usefulness of establishing a public library, but 
were not so rash as to propose spending any city money for it. 

At all events the establishment of public libraries, and a free ex- 
change of works of science, literature and art will be productive of 
great good and is well deserving an attempt to obtain it. The Com- 
mittee do not recommend that the City should make any appropria- 
tion for the purchase of books, or hold out any encouragement that 
it should be done hereafter. They only propose that they should 
receive and take care of any volume that may be contributed for 
the purpose, and agree that when the library is of sufficient im- 
portance to justify the expense, to provide means that should en- 
able all the citizens to use it with as little restriction as is consistent 
with the safety and preservation of the property. 

Mayor Quincy wished to bind the City to provide proper quarters 
for the library whenever the books contributed reached the value of 
thirty thousand dollars, but his f ellow-committeemen were only dis- 
posed to agree that it would be expedient to do so. The harmless and 
economical nature of the proposal at least avoided frightening the 
City Council, which was about to go out of office, and on 6 Decem- 
ber it was resolved: 

That this City Council heartily approves of a proper effort on the 
part of the city government to establish a public library, and rec- 
ommends that enterprise to the favourable consideration of the 
next City Council. 

Quincy, undiscouraged by the failure of private citizens or public 
authority to come forward with the $10,000 that was needed to in- 
sure his personal contribution of $5,000, brought the proposed pub- 
lic library into Ms inaugural address when entering upon his new 
term as Mayor on 3 January 1848. The new City Council heeded 


his plea, and on 24 January 1848 directed him "to apply to the 
Legislature for power to enable the City to establish and maintain 
a public library/' Thus it came about that the Legislature passed, 
and Governor Briggs signed, on 18 March 1848, the first legis- 
lation authorizing the plan that was so close to Quincy's heart. 


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in 
General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as 
follows : 

SECTION i . The City of Boston is hereby authorized to establish 
and maintain a public library, for the use of the inhabitants of the 
said city; and the city council of the said city may, from time to 
time, make such rules and regulations, for the care and mainte- 
nance thereof, as they may deem proper; provided, however, that 
no appropriation for the said library shall exceed the sum of five 
thousand dollars in any one year. 

SECTION 2. This act shall be null and void unless it shall be ac- 
cepted by the city council of the said city of Boston, within sixty 
days of its passage. 

When it was accepted within sixteen days, on 3 April 1848 (not- 
withstanding the cautious restriction of funds that it contained), a 
real step had been taken. One swallow maketh not summer, neither 
does an act even of the Great and General Court of the Common- 
wealth of Massachusetts cause a library to spring instantly into be- 
ing. Otherwise the library's centenary would have been observed in 
1948. Nevertheless, this brief piece of legislation was of historic 
import, for, as Mr. Wadlin pointed out in his history of 191 1 : 

It was the first statute ever passed authorizing the establishment 
and maintenance of a public library as a municipal institution sup- 
ported by taxation. It antedated by 16 months the general law in 
New Hampshire, and preceded by 38 months the first general law 
in Massachusetts. It was referred to in the discussion preceding 
the first English statute, authorizing the establishment of libraries 
and museums in municipal boroughs in England, which received 
royal assent, August 14, 1850. 


With the Boston Athenaeum already In substantial existence as 
one of the leading libraries of the country, Mayor Quincy 's eye natu- 
rally turned in that direction. He had been Treasurer of the Athe- 
naeum since 1837; his father, Josiah Quincy, the second Mayor of 
Boston (1822-1828), had been its President from 1822 until his 
migration to Cambridge as President of Harvard College in 1829. 
Here was an opportunity to graft the future public library upon a 
stock that had grown wisely and robustly for forty-one years. More- 
over, as Treasurer Quincy had reason to know, at this particular 
moment the Athenaeum was thinking very hard about new sources 
of income. The house in Pearl Street that James Perkins had given 
it in 1822 had been outgrown within two decades, and in April 
1847 the cornerstone of the present Athenaeum, at 10% Beacon 
Street, overlooking the Granary Burying Ground, had been laid. 
The design selected in competition was the work of Edward Clarke 
Cabot, a Boston gentleman engaged in raising sheep in Vermont, 
who like Thomas Jefferson turned his natural abilities to architec- 
ture without previous formal training. Considering many of the 
horrors and high-shouldered architectural dullnesses of the eighteen 
forties, Cabot's building was, and still is, extraordinarily pleasant, 
but it had turned out to be a great deal more expensive than had 
been anticipated. Consequently when President Thomas G. Gary 
and Vice President John Amory Lowell of the Athenaeum wrote the 
Mayor on 29 July with a tentative plan for "uniting the interests 
of the City with those of the Athenaeum in order to extend the use- 
fulness of the library," Quincy was entirely in accord. The Trus- 
tees of the Athenaeum voted on 14 August to recommend to the 
Proprietors the 500 share-holders who through their stock actu- 
ally owned the institution a proposal "that they should give to the 
public the use of the Library in as full a manner as it now is, or 
hereafter may be, enjoyed by the share-holders" in return for the 
payment of $50,000 by the City of Boston on i December 1848, 
and an annual subsidy of $5,000. The management of the Athe- 
naeum, under this new plan, was to be in the hands of ten directors, 
six of whom were to be chosen by the Athenaeum Trustees and four 
by the City Council. This arrangement, although agreeable to the 
Athenaeum Trustees, and approved by the Joint Standing Commit- 


tee on the Public Library on 22 September, was rejected by the 
Athenaeum Proprietors, who, after hearing a discussion of the plan 
at a special meeting on 24 October 1848, voted for indefinite post- 
ponement. The decision was in no way surprising. Boston trustees, 
as a race, have always combined conservatism with a considerable 
proportion of imaginative daring, but meetings at which five hun- 
dred New England individualists have the right to vote are seldom 
rapidly convinced. It is easy to see the reluctance of the Proprietors 
to attempt the adaptation of a building, designed for one quantity 
and type of use, to another for which it would certainly have proved 
inadequate, before it had even been occupied. Moreover, with no 
precedent for municipal support of libraries, they may well be par- 
doned a reasonable scepticism about the continuing interest of the 
City Council. It would have required keener powers of divination 
than Bostonians of 1848 possessed to foresee the millions of dollars 
that American cities were to devote to the cause of books in the cen- 
tury ahead. The difficulties were recognized at the time, for, as 
William W. Greenough remarked in his Annals for 1848: 

Later in this year, an unsuccessful effort was made for the union 
with the Boston Athenaeum, a result which, in the case of success, 
would have proved unfortunate and injurious to both institutions. 
Each library had its own limitations, the one to the stockholders 
who owned the property, the other to the City of Boston for the 
benefit of whose inhabitants it had been founded. 

Signs of rival enterprise in New York City became apparent when 
the Trustees of the Astor Library were incorporated on 18 January 
1849. Jtn Jacob Astor, who had died on 29 March 1848, only a 
few days after the passage of the act to authorize the establishment 
of a public library in Boston, had left $400,000 for building a 
public library in New York, equipping it with books and maintain- 
ing it. Soon after the incorporation of the Trustees, plans were an- 
nounced for an impressive building "in the Byzantine style, or rather 
in the style of the royal palaces of Florence" (as the Literary World 
rather hesitatingly phrased it) costing $75,000. Joseph Green Cogs- 
well, LL.D., who was appointed Librarian, had already by the fall 
of 1 849 assembled some twenty thousand volumes in England and 


on the continent, yet in Boston there were only happy thoughts and 
another appearance of the irrepressible Monsieur Vattemare. 

That gentleman, on 16 April 1849, presented the City of Boston 
with a third gift from the City of Paris, this time of some fifty vol- 
umes, including the following: 

Accounts of the Public Pawn-Brokers, from 1841 to 1844. 2 vol- 

Reports on the Progress and Effects of the Cholera Morbus in the 
City of Paris and the Department of the Seine, in 1832, by a 
Committee appointed by the Prefects of the Seine and Police. 
Paris, 1844. 4 to 

Reports made to the Municipal Council by the Special Committee 
appointed for the Organization of Slaughter-Houses, and the Regu- 
lations of Butcheries, 1843. 

Regulations concerning the Sale of Spiritous Drinks. 1837. Large 

Statistical Map of the Sewers of the City of Paris, showing the 
Introduction of Water, Cisspools, etc. 1839. 

Although it might have seemed that the City of Paris, with true 
Gallic frugality, had simply allowed Monsieur Vattemare to help 
himself from a surplus stock of public documents in the attic of the 
Hotel de Ville, the gift was gratefully hailed by the Boston City 
Council and steps were taken to reciprocate. A committee was ap- 
pointed to solicit donations; by September a tidy number had been 
assembled, and the full list was proudly printed as City Document 
No. 46. Emerson, Longfellow, Parkman, Prescott and Whittier con- 
tributed their latest works; the American Academy of Arts and Sci- 
ences and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society their publica- 
tions. Publishers parted with copies of their current best-sellers, and 
in one way and another a fairly representative collection was ob- 
tained. One wonders, however, what use the Parisians made of the 
first Burmese edition of L. Stilson's Introduction to Plane Trigo- 
nometry, the New Testament in Siamese, or The Basa Hymn Book, 
prepared for the Baptist Mission at Cape Palmas, West Africa, and 
similar works contributed in generous numbers by the American 
Baptist Missionary Union. It is intriguing to speculate whether any- 


one really enjoyed the numerous offerings of the Massachusetts Sab- 
bath School Society, of which Louisa Ralston, or what can 1 do for 
the heathen? (Boston, 1839) is a typical example. Probably they 
were at least as useful as the Accounts of the Public Pawn-Brokers, 
from 1841 to 1844. 

This exchange of international civilities marks the end of Vatte- 
mare's prologue to the founding of the Boston Public Library. It is 
easy to smile at his solemn enthusiasms over anything and everything; 
it is hard to share his faith in the millennial benefits that were to 
accrue from exchanging public documents. Tangibly he contributed 
little, but emotionally he moved many Bostonians, including Josiah 
Quincy, Jr., whose acts as Mayor undoubtedly speeded a process 
that might have lagged even more than it did. Justin Winsor 
summed the matter up rather neatly in his Memorial History of 
Boston when he wrote: 

Whatever we think of Vattemare, whether we call him an enthusi- 
ast, or something worse or better, we must recognize his conta- 
gious energy, which induced State after State to succumb to his 
representations, so that by 1853 he had brought one hundred and 
thirty libraries and institutions within his operations; and between 
1847 and 1851 had brought from France for American libraries 
30,655 volumes, besides maps, engravings, etc. 


Details concerning Vattemare's activity in Boston come largely 
from a collection of manuscript notes and letters labelled "MSS. re- 
lating to Vattemare in Boston" that he gave to the Boston Public 
Library (T.R. 25.29) in 1855, and from a larger group of docu- 
ments (T.R. 25.29a) assembled and presented by his devoted ad- 
mirer Josiah Ouincy, Jr., in 1877. Another miscellaneous volume in 
the Trustees' Room of the library (T.R. 15.10), assembled by 
Justin Winsor, contains Robert C. Winthrop's letter of 17 Novem- 
ber 1871 and other valuable documents on the foundation of the 
library. The most extensive study of Vattemare is in an unpublished 
Columbia University thesis for the degree of Master of Science in 
1 9 34 by Elizabeth M. Richards, Alexandre Vattemare and His Sys- 
tem of International Exchanges, generously made available to me 


on inter-library loan by the Columbia University Library. An ab- 
stract of Miss Richard's work was published in the Bulletin of the 
Medical Library Association, XXXII (1944), 413-448. Vattemare 
was amusingly described in Gertrude Barnes Fiertz, "Charley Mc- 
Carthy s Grandfather, The Wild Oats of a Boston Benefactor," New 
England Quarterly, XI (1938), 698-708. The references to him in 
Justin Winsor's "Libraries in Boston," The Memorial History of 
Boston (Boston, 1883), IV, 279-294, are, like everything that 
Winsor wrote, worth reading. Zoltan Haraszti, "Alexander Vatte- 
mare," More Books, II (1927), 257-272, published from the 
Quincy documents (T.R. 25.29a) a letter of 14 April 1841 from 
President Josiah Quincy to Josiah Quincy, Jr., expressing his inter- 
est in Vattemare's proposals. City Document No. 46. Report of the 
Committee on the Library, in relation to the donations received 
from the City of Paris . . . (Boston, 1849) gives full particulars 
of the books exchanged through Vattemare's efforts. 

Ticknor's activity is well described in George S. Hillard, Life, 
Letters and Journals of George Ticknor (London, 1876). 


The Founding of the Library 

Now what seems to me to be wanted in Boston 
is an apparatus that shall carry this taste for read- 
ing as deep as possible into society. 


JOHN PRESCOTT B I G E L O W, who had succeeded Josiah 
J Quincy, Jr., as Mayor of Boston in 1849, conducted himself with 
such energy during an epidemic of Asiatic cholera that swept the 
city during that summer that certain citizens raised a subscription 
fund for a testimonial gift to him. Rather than see this token of 
appreciation squandered upon a silver vase, Mayor Bigelow pro- 
posed that the sum of $1,000 be contributed to a fund for the pro- 
jected public library, which thus, on 5 August 1850, received its 
first gift of money. Private individuals had, in the meantime, been 
adding books to the scarcely scintillating collection received through 
Vattemare's efforts that was housed in an upper room of City Hall. 
Robert C. Winthrop, in the autumn of 1849, gave certain bound 
volumes of public documents that he had used during his terms in 
the national House of Representatives. Ezra Weston, the substantial 
shipbuilder and merchant of Duxbury, the Honorable S. A. Eliot, 
Dr. J. Mason Warren, J. D. W. Williams and the Reverend J. B. 
McMahan followed suit, while the versatile Edward Everett made 
an offer of his collection of public documents and State papers that 
was, to his expressed annoyance, not acknowledged with great 

Everett, who later played a major part in the development of the 
library, was at this moment and almost for the first time in his 
fifty-five years without public or academic duties. A Harvard 
Master of Arts and Minister of the Brattle Street Church in Boston 


at nineteen, Professor of Greek Literature in Harvard College at 
twenty-one, Everett was, at thirty, elected to the House of Repre- 
sentatives. After nine years in Congress, four terms as Governor of 
Massachusetts, and four years as Minister at the Court of St. James's, 
he had, in 1846, become President of Harvard College only to find 
the turbulence of undergraduates rather too much for his peace of 
mind. "I am fighting wild beasts in this my new Ephesus; where, 
however, I shall stay till all are satisfied that I can stay no longer/' 
Everett wrote his brother. By January 1 849, he at least was satisfied, 
and resigned the presidency, entering an interlude of unaccustomed 
leisure that continued until he succeeded his dear friend Daniel 
Webster as Secretary of State in November 1852. This interlude 
occurred at a fortunate moment for Boston, for it was largely through 
the interplay of Edward Everett's and George Ticknor's divergent 
thoughts that a reasonable concept of the Boston Public Library 
evolved. On 22 January 1850 Everett wrote Mayor Bigelow offering 
his collection of public documents "whenever you think it will be 
convenient for the City to receive them." Thus he renewed an offer 
made the previous year, for Mayor Bigelow, in acknowledging on 
31 October 1849 Robert C, Winthrop's gift of public documents, 
had mentioned Everett's previously promised gift, "so that with you 
and him the enterprise is already in successful progress." When the 
news of Bigelow's gift of $1,000 appeared in the newspapers, 
Everett, in some vexation, wrote the mayor on 7 August 1850: 

You are aware that I have more than once intimated to you, 
orally and in writing, that I should be happy to give my collection 
of public documents and State papers to the City. Perceiving that 
a commencement is likely to be made toward the establishment of 
a public library, I will thank you to inform the city government 
that this collection is at their service, whenever it will suit their 
convenience to receive it. I have for nearly thirty years devoted a 
great deal of time and labor and considerable expense to its forma- 
tion. It amounts at present to about one thousand volumes. From 
the foundation of the government up to the year 1825, when I 
first went to Congress, it contains nearly everything material. 
While I was in Congress I took great pains to preserve and bind 
up everything published by either house; and from that time to 
the year 1840, when I went abroad, the collection is tolerably 
complete. It is my intention to add to it, as far as they can be pro- 


cured, the documents since published, and I omit no opportunity 
of supplying the deficiencies in other parts of the series. 

In addition to State papers and public documents the collection 
contains other works connected with the civil and political History 
of the country. 

I hope it will not be thought intrusive in me to express the 
opinion, that, if the city government would provide a suitable 
building for a public library, it would be so amply supplied from 
time to time by donations, that only a moderate annual appropria- 
tion for books would be wanted . . . 

If a building were commenced, on a lot of public land, aiming 
at nothing but convenience and neatness (and all attempts to go 
farther in architecture, are almost sure to fail), and so planned as 
to admit future enlargement, the first expense need not exceed that 
of one of those numerous school-houses, of which the city does not 
hesitate to erect one every two or three years. The more retired 
the situation the better. The library ought not to be a show place 
for strangers, nor a lounge for idlers; but a quiet retreat for per- 
sons of both sexes who desire earnestly to improve their minds. 

Such a library would put the finishing hand to that system of 
public education that lies at the basis of the prosperity of Boston 
and with her benevolent institutions gives her so much of her 
name and praise in the land. 

The City Council within the week pledged itself to receive Everett's 
collection "whenever a suitable place shall be provided in which 
they can be deposited," and expressed appropriate thanks, but 
Everett obviously felt that his proffered generosity had been crowded 
into second place by the Mayor's thousand dollars, for on 30 Oc- 
tober 1854 when the library was actually in being he wrote in 
his journal: 

The first important step toward the establishment of this library 
was the donation of my collection of public documents and State 
papers. More than a year before the donation took place, I had 
requested Mr. Bigelow, the Mayor, to inform the City Council 
that I would make the donation if they would make any provision 
for the reception of the books. I am not aware that Mr. B. took any 
notice of this suggestion. Being led to think that this omission was 


not accidental, I addressed a note to him in January, 1850 (I 
think), making the same tender in writing. Even this, I believe 
was not communicated to the City Government. In August of that 
year, it was announced that Mayor Bigelow intended to appro- 
priate to founding a city library the sum of $ i ooo which had been 
subscribed to procure some testimonial of gratitude to him for his 
services in suppressing the cholera: and paragraphs appeared in 
the public papers to the effect that in consideration of the munifi- 
cent donation the library was to be called the Bigelow library. 

This last rumor, if indeed it had a foundation, never came to 
anything, although the Mayor, in his inaugural address on 6 Janu- 
ary 1851, commended the future library so effectively that the City 
Council appropriated $1,000 for library purposes. Everett trans- 
mitted a catalogue of the collection that he proposed to give, with 
a letter, dated 7 June 1851, in which he reiterated that "the cost 
of a suitable building need not exceed that of one of the larger 
School Houses," and developed his belief that a public library repre- 
sented "the completion of that noble system of Public Instruction, 
which reflects so much honor upon the City and does so much to 
promote its prosperity/' 

The first principles of popular government require that the means 
of education should, as far as possible, be equally within the reach 
of the whole population , . . This however is the case only up 
to the age when School education is at an end. We provide our 
children with the elements of learning and science, and put it in 
their power by independent study and research to make further ac- 
quisitions of useful knowledge from books but where are they 
to find the books in which it is contained? Here the noble principle 
of equality sadly fails. The sons of the wealthy alone have access 
to well-stored libraries; while those whose means do not allow 
them to purchase books are too often debarred from them at the 
moment when they would be most useful. We give them an ele- 
mentary education, impart to them a taste and inspire them with 
an earnest desire for further attainment, which unite in making 
books a necessary of intellectual life, and then make no provi- 
sion for supplying them . . . 

For these reasons I cannot but think that a Public Library, well 
supplied with books in the various departments of art and science, 
and open at all times for consultation and study to the citizens at 
large, is absolutely needed to make our admirable system of Public 


Education complete; and to continue in some good degree through 
life that happy equality of intellectual privileges, which now exists 
in our Schools, but terminates with them . . . 

In transmitting this letter to the City Council on 19 June, Mayor 
Bigelow observed that two thousand volumes had already been as- 
sembled and that, further: 

The Committee on the Library have funds at their control which 
will probably enable them to increase the number to four thou- 
sand volumes before the expiration of the year; and if the example 
of the public spirited citizens who have been named [Everett, 
Winthrop, Vattemare, Weston and others], should exert its proper 
influence in the community, the City will, within a short period, 
possess the largest and most valuable Municipal Library in the 

The greatest value of Everett's gift lay in its success in arousing 
the enthusiasm of George Ticknor. A quarter of a century before 
Ticlcnor had dreamed of uniting all Boston libraries on the founda- 
tion of the Athenaeum, but had met with no particular response. 
Now, having completed his History of Spanish Literature in 1849, 
he once more had the leisure to resume his former interests, and 
on 14 July 1851 wrote to Edward Everett: 

I have seen with much gratification from time to time, within 
the last year, and particularly in your last letter on the subject, that 
you interest yourself in the establishment of a public library in 
Boston; I mean a library open to all the citizens, and from which 
all, under proper restrictions, can take out books. Such, at least, 
I understand to be your plan; and I have thought, more than once, 
that I would like to talk with you about it, but accident has pre- 
vented it. However, perhaps a letter is as good on all accounts, and 
better as a distinct memorandum of what I mean. 

It has seemed to me, for many years, that such a free public 
library, if adapted to the wants of our people, would be the crown- 
ing glory of our public schools. But I think it important that it 
should be adapted to our peculiar character; that is, that it should 
come in at the end of our system of free instruction, and be fitted 
to continue and increase tie effects of that system by the self- 
culture that results from reading. 

The great obstacle to this with us is not as it is in Prussia and 
elsewhere a low condition of the mass of the people, condemning 


them, as soon as they escape from school, and often before It, to 
such severe labour, in order to procure the coarsest means of physi- 
cal subsistence, that they have no leisure for intellectual culture, 
and soon lose all taste for it. Our difficulty is, to furnish means 
specially fitted to encourage a love of reading, to create an appetite 
for It, which the schools often fail to do, and then to adapt these 
means to its gratification. That an appetite for reading can be very 
widely excited is plain, from what the cheap publications of the 
last twenty years have accomplished, gradually raising the taste 
from such poor trash as the novels with which they began, up to 
the excellent and valuable works of all sorts which now flood the 
country, and are read by the middling classes everywhere, and in 
New England, I think, even by a majority of the people. 

Now what seems to me to be wanted in Boston is, an apparatus 
that shall carry this taste for reading as deep as possible into so- 
ciety, assuming, what I believe to be true, that it can be carried 
deeper in our society than in any other in the world, because we 
axe better fitted for it. To do this I would establish a library which, 
in its main department and purpose, should differ from all free 
libraries yet attempted; I mean one in which any popular books, 
tending to moral and intellectual improvement, should be fur- 
nished in such numbers of copies that many persons, if they de- 
sired it, could be reading the same work at the same time; in short, 
that not only the best books of all sorts, but the pleasant literature 
of the day, should be made accessible to the whole people at the 
only time when they care for it, i.e. when it is fresh and new. I 
would, therefore, continue to buy additional copies of any book of 
this class, almost as long as they should continue to be asked for, 
and thus, by following the popular taste, unless it should de- 
mand something injurious, create a real appetite for healthy gen- 
eral reading. This appetite, once formed, will take care of itself. It 
will in the great majority of cases, demand better and better 
books; and can, I believe, by a little judicious help, rather than by 
any direct control or restraint, be carried much higher than is gen- 
erally thought possible . . . 

Nor would I, on this plan, neglect the establishment of a de- 
partment for consultation, and for all the common purposes of 
public libraries, some of whose books, like encyclopedias and dic- 
tionaries, should never be lent out, while others could be permitted 
to circulate; all on the shelves being accessible for reference as 
many hours in the day as possible, and always in the evening. This 
part of the library, I should hope would be much increased by 
donations from public-spirited individuals, and individuals inter- 


ested in the progress of knowledge, while, I think, the public treas- 
ury should provide for the more popular department . . . 

The notion of a circulating library was new to Everett, for on 26 
July he replied: 

The extensive circulation of new and popular works is a feature 
of a public library which I have not hitherto much contemplated. 
It deserves to be well weighed, and I shall be happy hereafter to 
confer with you on the subject. I cannot deny that my views have, 
since my younger days, undergone some change as to the practica- 
bility of freely loaning books at home from large public libraries. 
Those who have been connected with the administration of such 
libraries are apt to get discouraged, by the loss and damage result- 
ing from the loan of books. My present impressions are in favour 
of making the amplest provision in the library for the use of books 

Your plan, however, is intended to apply only to a particular 
class of books, and does not contemplate the unrestrained circula- 
tion of those of which the loss could not be easily replaced. 

Although Everett's and Ticknor's conviction that a library "would 
help to make our system of Public Education complete" was echoed 
in the report of the Joint Standing Committee on the Public Li- 
brary, presented to the City Council on i January 1852 and printed 
as City Document No. 79, hopeful words were not augmented by 
concrete proposals until February 1852 when Benjamin Seaver, who 
had succeeded John P. Bigelow as Mayor, made the following re- 
quest of the City Council: 

In order to carry this Institution into successful operation, I 
respectfully suggest that a Librarian be appointed, and a large room 
or rooms easy of access in a central portion of the City be secured, 
as the one now occupied has always been regarded more as a place 
for the deposit of books, than a suitable situation for a perma- 
nent Library. I would also respectfully suggest for your considera- 
tion the propriety of appointing, from our citizens at large, five or 
six gentlemen who feel interested in the subject, who, together 
with the Joint Standing Committee, shall form a Board of Directors 
or Trustees for the Public Library. These gentlemen, being annu- 
ally elected by the City Government to act with the Committee 
on the Library in the management of its affairs, would, I think, 


essentially aid in giving permanence to the Institution, and in se- 
curing the confidence and cooperation of our citizens. 

The Mayor's recommendations were adopted on 3 May 1852, and 
on the thirteenth the City Council, without waiting for the election 
of a Board of Trustees, which took place on the twenty-fourth, ap- 
pointed a Librarian. When the word of Mayor Seaver's proposal got 
abroad in February, William Frederick Poole, a graduate of Yale 
who had eleven months' experience in a temporary job at the Boston 
Athenaeum behind him, let his friends become aware that he wished 
the librarian's appointment in the new institution 'provided it is 
to be established on as extensive and liberal a scale as its most ardent 
advocates anticipate/' The City Council looked with greater favor 
upon a Harvard man, who had a considerably less distinguished 
career ahead of him, and appointed Edward Capen, A.M. 1842, 
who, after several years' duty as a clergyman, following his gradua- 
tion from the Harvard Divinity School in 1845, had recently be- 
come Secretary of the Boston School Committee. 

Edward Everett and George Ticknor were obvious choices for 
the Board of Trustees, although Ticknor made it plain that he would 
not serve unless the library freely circulated the majority of its books 
and aimed its chief effort at the lower classes of the community. 
Everett remained unconvinced upon these points, but, seeing that 
Ticknor would cooperate only in building a popular institution of 
the freest kind, acquiesced. Fifteen years later in 1867 Charles C. 
Jewett recalled to Ticknor: 

Few persons alive know as well as you and I do, that with re- 
gard to the great features of the plan, the free circulation of 
books, and the paramount importance attached to the popular de- 
partment, Mr. Everett had from the beginning, serious misgiv- 
ings, and that he yielded his doubts only to your urgency. He re- 
peated to me within, I think, a week previous to his death, the 
doubts which he said he had always entertained on these points, 
and said he did not think he should have yielded his assent, but 
for your determination not to put your hand to the work unless 
these features of the plan were adopted in all their prominence. 

With this clear understanding, the two friends accepted their ap- 
pointments, and Everett was designated as President. The other 


three citizens were equally appropriate choices: ex-Mayor Bigelow, 
Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff, a physician of historical competence 
who was in the future to edit the colonial records of the Massachu- 
setts Bay and Plymouth colonies and serve three terms as Mayor of 
Boston, and Thomas Gold Appleton, the coiner of "cold roast Bos- 
ton" and many of the other witty phrases of his day. These five, with 
Mayor Seaver, Aldermen Sampson Reed and Lyman Perry, and 
Councilmen James Lawrence, Edward S. Erving, James B, Allen, 
George W. Warren and George Wilson, were declared a Board of 
Trustees for 1852. At their first meeting of 31 May, Everett, Tick- 
nor, Shurtleff and Reed were appointed a committee to consider 
and report upon "the objects to be obtained by the establishment of 
a public library, and the best mode of effecting them/' 

The result was a masterly performance, largely by Ticknor, which 
marked the future course not only for Boston but for the public 
library movement in general. This remarkable document, dated 
6 July 1852, in which specific proposals for the library of the future 
were evolved from Ticknor 's head, was printed as City Document 
No. 37 Report of the Trustees of the Public Library of the City of 
Boston, July 1852. An annotated copy in the Boston Public Library 
and a statement by Ticknor's biographer make it clear that he alone 
was responsible for pages 9 to 21, which set forth the details of his 
concept of the popular circulating library. The earlier pages, appar- 
ently drafted by Everett, set forth the significance of printing as a 
means of multiplying writing the most useful and important of 
the human arts and the consequent multiplication of libraries. 
"In proportion as books have become more abundant, they have be- 
come the principal instrument of instruction in places of education," 
but, as was forcefully stated in Everett's earlier letters, "although 
the school and even the college and university are, as all thoughtful 
persons are well aware, but the first stages in education, the public 
makes no provision for carrying on the great work." Ticknor, after 
summarizing the evolution of privately owned circulating libraries 
and social libraries, then warmed to his dominant theme. 

Strong intimations, therefore, are already given, that ampler 
means and means better adapted to our peculiar condition and 
wants, are demanded, in order to diffuse through our society that 


knowledge without which we have no right to hope, that the con- 
dition of those who are to come after us will be as happy and 
prosperous as our own. The old roads, so to speak, are admitted to 
be no longer sufficient. Even the more modern turnpikes do not 
satisfy our wants. We ask for rail-cars and steamboats, in which 
many more persons even multitudes may advance together to 
the great end of life, and go faster, farther and better, by the 
means thus furnished to them, than they have ever been able to 
do before. 

Nowhere are the intimations of this demand more decisive than 
in our own city, nor, it is believed, is there any city of equal size 
in the world, where added means for general popular instruction 
and self-culture, if wisely adapted to their great ends, will be 
so promptly seized upon or so effectively used, as they will be here. 
One plain proof of this is, the large number of good libraries we 
already possess, which are constantly resorted to by those who have 
the right, and which yet it is well known fail to supply the 
demand for popular reading. For we have respectable libraries of 
almost every class, beginning with those of the Athenaeum, of the 
American Academy, of the Historical Society, and of the General 
Court, the Social Library of 1792, the Mercantile Library, the 
Mechanics Apprentices' Library, the Libraries of the Natural His- 
tory Society, of the Bar, of the Statistical Association, of the Gen- 
ealogical Society, of the Medical Society, and of other collective and 
corporate bodies; and coming down to the "Circulating Libraries" 
strictly so called; the Sunday School Libraries, and the collections 
of children's books found occasionally in our Primary Schools. 
Now all these are important and excellent means for the diffusion 
of knowledge. They are felt to be such, and they are used as such, 
and the trustees would be careful not to diminish the resources or 
the influence of any one of them. They are sure that no public li- 
brary can do it. But it is admitted, or else another and more gen- 
eral library would not now be urged, that these valuable libraries 
do not, either individually or in the aggregate, reach the great 
want of this city, considered as a body politic bound to train up its 
members in the knowledge which will best fit them for the posi- 
tions in life to which they may have been born, or any others to 
which they may justly aspire through increased intelligence and 
personal worthiness. For multitudes among us have no right of 
access to any one of the more considerable and important of these 
libraries; and, except in rare instances, no library among us seeks 
to keep more than a single copy of any book on its shelves, so that 
no one of them, nor indeed all of them taken together, can do 


even a tolerable amount of what ought to be done towards satisfy- 
ing the demands for healthy, nourishing reading made by the great 
masses of our people, who cannot be expected to purchase such 
reading for themselves. 

And yet there can be no doubt that such reading ought to be 
furnished to all, as a matter of public policy and duty, on the same 
principle that we furnish free education, and in fact, as a part, and 
a most important part, of the education of all. For it has been 
rightly judged that, under political, social and religious institu- 
tions like ours, it is of paramount importance that the means of 
general information should be so diffused that the largest possible 
number of persons should be induced to read and understand ques- 
tions of social order, which are constantly presenting themselves, 
and which we, as a people, are constantly required to decide, and 
do decide, either ignorantly or wisely. That this can be done, 
that is, that such libraries can be collected, and that they will be 
used to a much wider extent than libraries have ever been used 
before, and with much more important results, there can be no 
doubt; and if it can be done anywhere, it can be done here in Bos- 
ton; for no population of one hundred and fifty thousand souls, 
lying so compactly together as to be able, with tolerable con- 
venience, to resort to one library, was ever before so well fitted to 
become a reading, self-cultivating population, as the population 
of our own city at this moment. 

To accomplish this object, however, which has never yet 
been attempted, we must use means which have never before 
been used; otherwise the library we propose to establish, will not be 
adjusted to its especial purposes. Above all, while the rightful 
claims of no class, however highly educated already, should be 
overlooked, the first regard should be shown, as in the case of our 
Free Schools, to the wants of those, who can, in no other way 
supply themselves with the interesting and healthy reading neces- 
sary for their farther education. What precise plan should be 
adopted for such a library, it is not, perhaps, possible to settle be- 
forehand. It is a new thing, a new step forward in general educa- 
tion; and we must feel our way as we advance. Still, certain points 
seem to rise up with so much prominence, that without deciding 
on any formal arrangement, until experience shall show what is 
practically useful we may perhaps foresee that such a library as 
is contemplated would naturally fall into four classes, viz: 

I. Books that cannot be taken out of the Library, such as Cy- 
clopedias, Dictionaries, important public documents, and books, 


which, from their rarity or costliness, cannot be easily replaced. 
Perhaps others should be specifically added to this list, but after 
all, the Trustees would be sorry to exclude any book whatever so 
absolutely from circulation that, by permission of the highest au- 
thority having control of the library, it could not, in special cases, 
and with sufficient pledges for its safe and proper return, be taken 
out. For a book, it should be remembered, is never so much in the 
way of its duty as it is when it is in the hand to be read or con- 

II. Books that few persons will wish to read, and of which, 
therefore, only one copy will be kept, but which should be per- 
mitted to circulate freely, and if this copy should, contrary to ex- 
pectation, be so often asked for, as to be rarely on the shelves, 
another copy should then be bought, or if needful, more than 
one other copy, so as to keep one generally at home, especially 
if it be such a book as is often wanted for use there. 

III. Books that will be often asked for, (we mean, the more 
respectable of the popular works of the time,) of which copies 
should be provided in such numbers that many persons, if they 
desire it, can be reading the same work at the same moment, and 
so render the pleasant and healthy literature of the day accessible 
to the whole people at the only time they care for it, that is, 
when it is living, fresh and new. Additional copies, therefore, of 
any book of this class should continue to be bought almost as long 
as they are urgently demanded, and thus, by following the popu- 
lar taste, unless it should ask for something unhealthy, we 
may hope to create a real desire for general reading; and, by per- 
mitting the freest circulation of the books that is consistent with 
their safety, cultivate this desire amorig the young, and in the fam- 
ilies and at the fireside of the greatest possible number of persons 
in the city. 

An appetite like this, when formed, will, we fully believe, pro- 
vide wisely and well for its own wants. The popular, current litera- 
ture of the day can occupy but a small portion of the leisure even 
of the more laborious parts of our population, provided there should 
exist among them a love for reading as great, for instance, as the 
love for public lecturing, or for the public schools; and when such 
a taste for books has once been formed by these lighter publica- 
tions, then the older and more settled works in Biography, in His- 
tory, and in the graver departments of knowledge will be de- 
manded. That such a taste can be excited by such means, is proved 
from the course taken in obedience to the dictates of their own in- 


terests, by the publishers of the popular literature of the time dur- 
ing the last twenty or thirty years. The Harpers and others began 
chiefly with new novels and other books of little value. What they 
printed, however, was eagerly bought and read, because it was 
cheap and agreeable, if nothing else. A habit of reading was thus 
formed. Better books were soon demanded, and gradually the gen- 
eral taste has risen in its requisitions, until now the country 
abounds with respectable works of all sorts, such as compose the 
three hundred volumes of the Harpers' School Library and the 
two hundred of their Family Library which are read by great 
numbers of our people everywhere, especially in New England 
and in the Middle States. This taste, therefore, once excited will, 
we are persuaded, go on itself from year to year, demanding better 
and better books, and, can as we believe, by a little judicious help 
in the selections for a Free City Library, rather than by any direct 
control, restraint, or solicitation, be carried much higher than has 
been commonly deemed possible; preventing at the same time, a 
great deal of the mischievous, poor reading now indulged in, 
which is bought and paid for, by offering good reading, without 
pay, which will be attractive. 

Nor would the process by which this result is to be reached [be] 
a costly one; certainly not costly compared with its benefits. Nearly 
all the most popular books are, from the circumstances of their 
popularity, cheap, most of them very cheap, because large edi- 
tions of them are printed that are suited to the wants of those who 
cannot afford to buy dear books. It may, indeed, sometimes be nec- 
essary to purchase many copies of one of these books, and so the 
first outlay, in some cases may seem considerable. But such a pas- 
sion for any given book does not last long, and, as it subsides, the 
extra copies may be sold for something, until only a few are left in 
the library, or perhaps, only a single one, while the money re- 
ceived from the sale of the rest, which, at a reduced price, 
would, no doubt often be bought of the Librarian by those who 
had been most interested in reading them, will serve to increase 
the general means for purchasing others of the same sort. The 
plan, therefore, it is believed, is a practicable one, so far as ex- 
pense is concerned, and will, we think, be found on trial, much 
cheaper and easier of execution than at the first suggestion, it may 
seem to be. 

IV. The last class of books to be kept in such a library, con- 
sists, we suppose, of periodical publications, probably excluding 
newspapers, except such as may be given by their proprietors. Like 
the first class, they should not be taken out at all, or only in rare 


and peculiar cases, but they should be kept in a Reading Room 
accessible to everybody; open as many hours of the day as possible, 
and always in the evening; and in which all the books on the 
shelves of every part of the Library should be furnished for pe- 
rusal or for consultation to all who may ask for them, except to such 
persons as may, from their disorderly conduct or unseemly condi- 
tion, interfere with the occupations and comfort of others who may 
be in the room. 

In the establishment of such a library, a beginning should be 
made, we think, without any sharply defined or settled plan, so as 
to be governed by circumstances as they may arise. The com- 
mencement should be made, of preference, in a very unpretend- 
ing manner; erecting no new building and making no show; but 
spending such moneys as may be appropriated for the purpose, 
chiefly on books that are known to be really wanted, rather than 
on such as will make an imposing, a scientific or a learned collec- 
tion; trusting, however, most confidently, that such a library, in 
the long run, will contain all that anybody can reasonably ask of it. 
For, to begin by making it a really useful library; by awakening a 
general interest in it as a City Institution, important to the whole 
people, a part of their education, and an element of their happiness 
and prosperity, is the surest way to make it at last, a great and rich 
library for men of science, statesmen and scholars, as well as for 
the great body of the people, many of whom are always success- 
fully struggling up to honorable distinctions and all of whom 
should be encouraged and helped to do it. Certainly this has proved 
to be the case with some of the best libraries yet formed in the 
United States, and especially with the Philadelphia Library, whose 
means were at first extremely humble and trifling, compared with 
those we can command at the outset. Such libraries have in fact 
enjoyed the public favor, and become large, learned, and scientific 
collections of books, exactly in proportion as they have been found 
generally useful. 

As to the terms on which access should be had to a City library, 
the Trustees can only say, that they would place no restrictions on 
its use, except such as the nature of individual books, or their 
safety may demand; regarding it as a great matter to carry as many 
of them as possible into the home of the young; into poor families; 
into cheap boarding houses; in short, wherever they will be most 
likely to affect life and raise personal character and condition. To 
many classes of persons the doors of such a library may, we con- 
ceive be at once opened wide. All officers of the City Government, 


therefore, including the police, all clergymen settled among us, all 
city missionaries, all teachers of our public schools, all members of 
normal schools, all young persons who may have received medals 
or other honorary distinctions on leaving our Grammar and higher 
schools, and, in fact, as many classes, as can safely be entrusted 
with it as classes might enjoy, on the mere names and personal 
responsibility of the individuals composing them, the right of tak- 
ing out freely all books that are permitted to circulate, receiving 
one volume at a time. To all other persons, women as well as 
men living in the City, the same privilege might be granted on 
depositing the value of the volume or of the set to which it may 
belong; believing that the pledge of a single dollar or even less, may 
thus insure pleasant and profitable reading to any family among us. 

In this way the Trustees would endeavor to make the Public 
Library of the City, as far as possible, the crowning glory of our 
system of City Schools; or in other words, they would make it an 
institution, fitted to continue and increase the best effects of that 
system, by opening to all the means of self culture through books, 
for which these schools have been specially qualifying them. 

Thus ended the part of the report that Ticknor drafted himself, 
and which Edward Everett generously accepted, even though still 
unconvinced of the practicability of a popular circulating library. 
The remaining three pages are devoted to the steps that should be 
adopted to accomplish the design. 

If it were probable that the City Council would deem it expedi- 
ent at once to make a large appropriation for the erection of a 
building and the purchase of an ample library, and that the citi- 
zens at large would approve such expenditure, the Trustees would 
of course feel great satisfaction in the prompt achievement of an 
object of such high public utility. But in the present state of the 
finances of the city, and in reference to an object on which the 
public mind is not yet enlightened by experience, the Trustees 
regard any such appropriation and expenditure as entirely out of 
the question. They conceive even that there are advantages to a 
more gradual course of measures. They look, therefore, only to the 
continuance of such moderate and frugal expenditure, on the part 
of the city, as has been already authorized and commenced, for 
the purchase of books and the compensation of the librarian; and 
for the assignment of a room or rooms in some one of the public 
buildings belonging to the city for the reception of the books al- 
ready on hand, or which the Trustees have the means of procuring. 


With aid to this extent on the part of the city, the Trustees be- 
lieve that all else may be left to the public spirit and liberality of 

Thus, it was confidently believed, not only large collections but 
small would be attracted, while authors, editors and publishers 
"would unquestionably show themselves efficient friends and bene- 
factors." Specifically, the Trustees requested the use of the ground 
floor of the Adams schoolhouse in Mason Street, where at slight 
expense four or five thousand volumes might be housed and a read- 
ing room opened in the predictable future. 

Faith in a sound idea is often rewarded from unexpected quarters, 
and by means that a mere schemer would never anticipate. Ticknor 
believed so firmly in the possibility and utility of a popular circulat- 
ing library under public auspices that he persuaded his only partially 
convinced colleagues to accept it as a basic principle of the proposed 
institution. In the report just quoted he translated this mental con- 
cept into a specific plan so effective that it kindled the "public spirit 
and liberality" of an entirely unforeseen individual in London, As 
William W. Greenough described the event in his Annals, 

One result which followed from the publication and distribu- 
tion of this report was as vitally important as it was unexpected. 

At this period the City Government was negotiating the Water 
Loan with the house of Baring Brothers and Co., and among the 
documents sent for their information as to the status of the City 
of Boston was a copy of the report of which an extract appears 
above, and which attracted the notice of Mr. Joshua Bates, the 
senior partner of the great banking house. It produced so strong 
an impression upon him as to its opportunities of usefulness to 
young men, that he addressed to the Mayor the following letter: 

LONDON, Oct. i, 1852 

I am indebted to you for a copy of the Report of the Trustees 
of the Public Library for the City of Boston, which I have perused 
with great interest, being impressed with the importance to rising 
and future generations of such a Library as is recommended; and 
while I am sure that, in a liberal and wealthy community like that 
of Boston, there will be no want of funds to carry out the recom- 
mendations of the Trustees, it may accelerate its accomplishment 


and establish the Library at once, on a scale to do credit to the City, 
if I am allowed to pay for the books required, which I am quite 
willing to do, leaving to the City to provide the building and take 
care of the expenses. 

The only condition that I ask is, that the building shall be such 
as to be an ornament to the City, that there shall be a room for 
one hundred to one hundred and fifty persons to sit at read- 
ing-tables, that it shall be perfectly free to all, with no other 
restrictions than may be necessary for the preservation of the 
books. What the building may cost, I am unable to estimate, but 
the books, counting additions during my life time, I estimate at 
$50,000, which I shall gladly contribute, and consider it but a 
small return for the many acts of confidence and kindness which 
I have received from my many friends in your City. 

Believe me, Dear Sir, very truly yours, 


This simple and magnanimous letter, so completely in keeping 
with the disinterested faith of Ticknor's proposal, was sent by Mr. 
Bates to his friend, Thomas Wren Ward, a China trade merchant 
and former Treasurer of the Boston Athenaeum, with a private letter 
in which the inspiration of the gift Bates's craving for books as a 
poor boy in Boston half a century before was set forth. 

I enclose a letter to the Mayor, which please to peruse, and then 
go to Mr. Everett and Mr. Ticknor and explain to them my ideas, 
which are that my own experience as a poor boy convinced me of 
the great advantage of such a library. Having no money to spend 
and no place to go to, not being able to pay for a fire in my own 
room, I could not pay for books, and the best way I could pass my 
evenings was to sit in Hastings, Etheridge & Bliss's bookstore, and 
read what they kindly permitted me to; and I am confident that 
had there been good, warm, and well-lighted rooms to which 
we could have resorted, with proper books, nearly all the youth of 
my acquaintance would have spent their evenings there, to the 
improvement of their minds and morals. 

Now it strikes me, that it will not do to have the rooms in the 
proposed library much inferior to the rooms occupied for the same 
object by the upper classes. Let the virtuous and industrious of the 
middle and mechanic class feel that there is not so much difference 
between them. Few but worthy young men will frequent the H- 


brary at first; they may draw others from vice to tread in the same 
paths; and with large, well-lighted rooms, well-warmed in winter, 
I feel sure that the moral effect will keep pace with mental im- 
provement, and it will be carrying out the school system of Boston, 
as it ought to be carried out. 

My friends may think differently, or that my proposal is im- 
proper, or in the wrong form; but if you all agree that it is right 
and proper, the trustees may go to work and provide such books 
as they find cheapest in the United States, drawing on me for the 
cost, sending me a list of such as can best be procured here or in 
France, and I will have them purchased without delay. If this con- 
clusion is come to, then my letter to the Mayor may be delivered, 
if it is thought a proper one. I rely on you, Mr. Everett and Mr. 
Ticknor, to put the matter right. 

The evenings in Hastings, Etheridge & Bliss's bookstore had fol- 
lowed long days in the counting house of William R. Gray, which 
Joshua Bates bom in Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1788 had 
entered at fifteen. Following the War of 1812, this enterprising 
young man went to Europe as general agent for the elder William 
Gray, who was then one of the largest Massachusetts ship owners 
and merchants. A chance encounter with Peter Caesar Labouchere, 
senior member of the Amsterdam house of Hope and Company, 
and a relative by marriage of the Baring family, decisively affected 
young Bates's future, for it led to immediate financial support, an 
eventual partnership in Baring Brothers and Company, and finally 
a great personal fortune. The modesty and good feeling of his letter 
to Mayor Seaver tell much of the character of Joshua Bates. Having 
reached an eminent pinnacle of worldly success with energy, imagi- 
nation, and integrity as his only resources, he welcomed the oppor- 
tunity to encourage other young men like himself, and did so with a 
simplicity and an absence of fine words that was hardly typical of 
his time. Thus within four months of the year 1852 Ticknor had 
phrased a plan and Bates had provided the means of carrying it out. 

The offer was enthusiastically accepted, and Joshua Bates readily 
acquiesced in the City Council's request to fund the gift, and to use 
the income only for the purchase of books. Thus, in the ample days 
when even conservative investment produced at least six per cent, an 
annual sum of three thousand dollars became available for books. 



Gifts in June of $500 from James Brown and in September of 
$1,000 from Samuel Appleton were spent for immediate additions 
to the collections then in hand. 

The quarters requested in the Mason Street schoolhouse were 
admittedly temporary, and the problem of a suitable building re- 
mained unsolved. In the expectation that steps would soon be taken, 
Joshua Bates informally passed his thoughts along to Thomas Wren 
Ward in November 1852, soon after the formal acceptance of his 
gift by the City Council: 

I have received your valued letter with the newspaper account 
of the proceedings of the Board of Aldermen on my letter offering 
to furnish the books for the City Library. These proceedings are 


very gratifying to me personally and give me confidence that the 
Library will be established on a footing that will make it exten- 
sively useful, and that it will grow into one of the most important 
institutions in the United States. My ideas are that the building 
should contain lofty apartments to serve for placing the books and 
also for reading tables, as the holding of books in the hand dam- 
ages them very soon. The architecture should be such that a 
student on entering it will be impressed and elevated, and feel a 
pride that such a place is free to him. There should be niches and 
places for a few marble statues, as these will from time to time be 


contributed by those who may be benefitted by the Institution. 
When on their travels in Italy they see the originals they will be 
pretty sure to order something. By these means the reading rooms 
will be made more attractive, and the rising generation will be 
able to contemplate familiarity with the best works of the cele- 
brated masters. There should be an entrance hall, a room for 
cloaks and umbrellas, and a room for washing hands, with soap, 
hot water and towels provided. The rooms should be well-warmed 
in winter, and well lighted. If you will only provide the build- 
ing, and you can hardy have it too large, I can assure the Com- 
mittee that all the rest will come as a matter of course. These read- 
ing arrangements will not prevent parties who may find it more 
convenient to read at home from taking books, giving proper 

My experience convinces me that there are a large number of 
young men who make a decent appearance, but living in boarding 
houses or with poor parents, cannot afford to have fire in their 
rooms. Such persons in past times having no place of resort have 
often loitered about the streets in the evenings and got into bad 
company, which would have been avoided, had such a library as 
is now proposed been in existence. The moral and intellectual im- 
provement such a library would produce is incalculable. I wish to 
see the institution a model for other towns and cities. There should 
be a book of directions for reading in every branch of knowledge, 
that the young men may know where to begin. In future times when 
It Is desired to know something of a young man, the question will 
be asked, "Does he frequent the library?" I have no doubt the 
Committee understand die matter much better than I do, or that 
It will be carried out in the best possible manner. 

Late in February 1 853 the City bought the Caleb G. Loring estate 
In Somerset Street at the top of Beacon Hill, around the corner 
from the new Athenaeum, as a site for the proposed building, and 
almost immediately there were varied opinions about its appropri- 
ateness. An anonymous "Shareholder in the Boston Athenaeum," 
writing in the Boston Daily Advertiser of i March 1853, once again 
raised the question of a merger, suggesting that, if the Public Library 
could be accommodated in the Athenaeum's new building, $ 1 50,000 
that would otherwise be required for bricks and mortar could be put 
into additional books. George Ticknor, therefore, wrote to that paper 
a fortnight later, under the pseudonym "An Old Proprietor of the 


Athenaeum" (which indeed he was, having owned a share since 
1822), in support of the union. His letter, printed in the 14 March 
1853 issue, reviewed the Athenaeum's financial history, indicated 
the inappropriateness of having two separate libraries within a 
stone's throw of one another, and pointed out that "four-fifths of the 
proprietors of the Athenaeum, it is confidently believed, regard and 
always have regarded, their interest in it as a public rather than a 
private one, and, like its other benefactors, they have contributed 
to it mainly because they have felt the importance of having some- 
thing in Boston as near to a Public Library, as their combined 
means could furnish/' Ticknor alleged that many proprietors were 
ready immediately to give their shares to the City, provided the re- 
mainder would sell theirs at the current market value. But, he con- 

I do not know a single person among the present proprietors, who 
would wish to transfer the Athenaeum to the City, even in order 
to make it the foundation of a great and beneficent Public Institu- 
tion, unless it can be done by the cordial approbation and act of a 
large majority of our number, and in a manner generous, honor- 
able and useful to all; unless, indeed, it can be done in the same 
liberal spirit, and for the same general purpose, of advancing the 
education and the welfare of the community, which have marked 
its character from the beginning, and which whatever may be 
its fate will, I am persuaded, mark its character to the end. 

Ticknor's letter, with an endorsement from seventy-seven highly 
respected proprietors of the Athenaeum, was promptly reprinted 
and widely circulated in a pamphlet entitled Union of the Boston 
Athenaeum and the Public Library. But, alas for Ticknor's hopes, 
his fellow-trustee of the Public Library, George W. Warren, waggled 
his tongue irresponsibly in the City Council. Councilman Warren, 
in answer to criticism of the purchase of land in Somerset Street, 
said, or at least was reported to have said by the newspapers: 

. . . that the effect of the purchase has been most salutary with 
regard to the proposed purchase of the Athenaeum. Before the 
Loring Estate was selected, the proprietors of the Athenaeum were 
strongly opposed to the sale of the institution to the city. The city, 
having purchased a lot near the Athenaeum building, have now 
the advantage, and the proprietors are willing to sell. The Athe- 


nxum must soon play second to the Boston Free Library, and the 
owners are perfectly ivilling now to sell out at half what they 
charged at first. 

This suggestion of political chicanery on the part of the City 
Government instantly undid the reasonableness of Ticknor's argu- 
ments, and the opponents rallied around the venerable Josiah 
Quincy, who, signing himself "The Sole Survivor of the First Five 
Subscribers to the Athenaeum," published on 24 March An Appeal 
in Behalf of the Boston Athenaeum Addressed to the Proprietors. 
Quincy, now in his eighty-second year, was a man of open mind 
and large ideas. During his term as Mayor of Boston from 1823 to 
1828 he had reformed the sanitary condition of the city, built the 
present Quincy Market, reorganized the fire department, and gener- 
ally concerned himself with municipal improvement. On 14 April 
1841, while President of Harvard College, he had, in a letter to his 
son, Josiah, Jr., responded to Vattemare's contagious enthusiasm to 
the point of considering feasible a building in which the Athenaeum, 
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Massachusetts 
Historical Society and other institutions might house their several 
libraries in common, yet his own experience of city governments 
combined with Councilman Warren's indiscretion, convinced him 
that it would be "unjust, unwise, and unprincipled" to deliver over 
the care of the Athenaeum to "a political body, annually shifting its 
members, and changing principles and policy with every turn of 
party or passion." Quincy 's vigorous opposition proved so effective 
that at a meeting of the Athenaeum proprietors on 28 March 1853 
Ticknor's proposal was resoundingly defeated. 

Possible union with the Athenaeum was now eliminated from 
discussion, but there seemed little enthusiasm for Somerset Street 
as the location of the future library. In March the notion of a new 
City Hall, in emulation of the Farnese Palace in Rome, with mu- 
nicipal offices on two floors and the library on the third, was investi- 
gated by the Joint Committees on Public Library and Public Build- 
ings. Although the majority found this proposal "impracticable and 
inexpedient," a minority of the committee reported favorably. The 
land on Somerset Street was soon resold without loss, and, after 
the possibility of building in the Public Garden was rejected, a new 


site was purchased on Boylston Street, near the corner of Tremont 
Street, overlooking the Common, "which secures to it unobstructed 
light and air, and as fine a prospect as can be enjoyed in any city 
in the world." 

The Trustees, reporting to the City Council on 10 November 
1853, as was required by the ordinance of 14 October 1852 by 
which the library was regulated, requested the appointment of a 
commission to prepare plans for the proposed building, which "will 
necessarily occupy two or three years/' They had hoped to open the 
library in its temporary Mason Street quarters by i October, but that 
had not proved possible. In the course of 1853 the Honorable Jona- 
than Phillips had given $10,000, which, being funded, would add 
$600 annually for the purchase of books. Gifts of $100 from James 
Nightingale and $300 from J. I. Bowditch had been spent currently 
for books, so that the number on hand and "in good order" in No- 
vember, according to the committee of citizens appointed under the 
municipal ordinance to examine the library, amounted to 9,688 

Nathaniel I. Bowditch, having exercised without charge his cele- 
brated talents as a conveyancer in searching the title of the Boylston 
Street property, was credited with a gift of $200 in kind. 

For the new institution 1852 had proved on annus mirabilis; 
1853 had merely shown slow and somewhat circuitous progress. 


The principles upon which the library was founded are contained 
in City Document No. 37. Report of the Trustees of the "Public Li- 
brary of the City of Boston, July 1852 (Boston, 1852), a copy of 
which, reaching London by accident, inspired Joshua Bates's great 
gifts. Jesse H. Shera reproduced as Appendix V (pp. 267-290) of 
his Foundations of the Public Library a copy of this report with an- 
notations by Charles C. Jewett that establish the sections written by 
George Ticknor. In subsequent chapters, reference to the printed 
annual reports of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library is to be 
assumed without further citation. 


Ticknor's and Everett's roles are described in Hillard's previously 
cited life of Ticlcnor and in Paul Revere Frothingham's Edward 
Everett, Orator and Statesman (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Com- 
pany, 1925). The original draft of C. C. Jewett's letter of 15 May 
1867 to Ticknor concerning Everett's and Ticknor's views on the 
free circulation of books is in the Boston Public Library Trustees' 
Room miscellaneous volume (T.R. 15.10). Poole's aspirations to 
the librarianship are discussed in Carl B. Roden 'The Boston Days 
of Dr. W. F. Poole," Essays offered to Herbert Putnam (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1929). 


Narrow Premises in 
Mason Street 

It is desirable and important to render this free 
public library at once extensively useful as a large 
collection of books in as many departments of hu- 
man knowledge as possible. 


THE two promised rooms in the Mason Street schoolhouse at 
last became available, and on 20 March 1854 the outer one, 
designated as the Reading Room, was opened for public use. Here 
were kept 138 periodicals, and here, for want of a better place, 
books were delivered to a daily average of three hundred readers 
after the circulation department was opened, on 2 May. The Ex- 
amining Committee found the room "noisy, uncomfortable and unfit 
for its peculiar purposes as a place for quiet reading/' just as the 
interior room, or library proper, was "small, ill-lighted, ill-venti- 
lated, cold in winter, and so nearly filled with books that it will 
soon be impossible to find places for more/' But all this was known 
to be temporary, and the library was at last in operation. 

By the rules and regulations drawn up by Dr. Shurtleff and 
Alderman Reed, and adopted by the Trustees on 8 November 1853, 
the Reading Room was open daily, save on Sundays and holidays, 
from 9:00 a.m. to 9,30 p.m. All inhabitants of Boston over sixteen 
had access to it, where not only the periodicals but all books in the 
library might be consulted. For home use, one volume at a time 
might, with no formality beyond signing a promise to observe all 
library rules, be withdrawn for fourteen days, with privilege of 
renewal for a similar period, by officers and employees of the city 


government, ordained ministers, teachers in private schools, mem- 
bers of the Normal School, medal scholars annually graduated from 
the public schools, and benefactors of the library who had given at 
least $100. Any other inhabitant of Boston might withdraw a book 
upon depositing its full value with the Librarian, while anyone over 
twenty-one introduced by "some respectable and responsible citizen, 
who will thus make himself liable for any loss the Library may sus- 
tain in consequence/* might have the privilege without deposit. 
All books were to be returned fourteen days before the annual ex- 
amination in October, for which purpose the library was closed. 
Readers were particularly requested to suggest titles of books not 
in the library. 

The Librarian maintained a catalogue of accessions, in which 
every book, with its cost, was entered on receipt, an alphabetical 
card catalogue, a shelf catalogue, showing the location of books 
upon the shelves all for the use of the staff and a printed alpha- 
betical catalogue in book form interleaved for the entry of new 
accessions copies of which were placed on tables in the Reading 
Room for consultation by the public. 

Even with its crowded quarters, the experiment was encouraging, 
for in the five and a half months between the opening and the 1 7 
October closing for the annual examination, 6,590 persons used the 
library and 35,389 books were borrowed for home use. No single 
book was "wantonly or unreasonably injured/' while the 1854 an- 
nual examination showed that of the 16,221 books and 3950 pam- 
phlets on hand only twenty were missing from their places on the 
shelves. These were likely to turn up, but if they did not, the $87.30 
received in fines for late return would more than pay for their re- 
placement! The Trustees, in their purchases, had aimed at "useful 
books, in the English language, in plain, good bindings/' 

Works in the learned and foreign tongues, books or editions of 
books which owe their value to their rarity, works of luxury as 
they are called, splendidly illustrated publications, and sumptu- 
ous and costly bindings have wholly been avoided. The Trustees 
do not undervalue works of this kind, when surplus funds exist 
for their purchase. They look forward to the time when, the more 
immediate wants of the institution having been supplied, there 


will be a propriety in making the acquisition, to a reasonable ex- 
tent, of works of this class; which they also have no doubt will, 
from time to time, be added to the Library by private liberality. 
But for the present they are under the impression, that works in- 
tended for substantial use, rather than for curiosity and show, are 
what the public need and have a right to expect. 

The last impression is sound enough to have been shared by the 
majority of their successors ever since, particularly as "private liber- 
ality" showed itself early. During 1855, 153 persons made gifts 
which included the largest size of Audubon's Birds of America from 
Thomas G. Appleton, two hundred volumes from the Royal Com- 
missioners of Patents in Great Britain, the monumental French gov- 
ernment work on Egypt from Edward Austin, and $1,000 from 
Mrs. Sally Inman Kast Shepard. The same year also saw the first 
definite steps toward the provision of adequate quarters for the 

From Robert C. Winthrop's letter of 17 April 1855 to J. P. Ken- 
nedy, in which he wrote, 

I am building a Public Library, setting up a statue of Franklin, 
presiding over the great charitable association of the city, super- 
intending with others the course of things at Cambridge, helping 
along the affairs of Trinity Church, presiding over the Histori- 
cal ... 

one might incorrectly infer that the slow progress was due to an 
attempt of this former member of Congress to construct the library 
single-handed. After unsuccessful candidacy for the governorship 
of Massachusetts and the United States Senate, Winthrop had 
turned his attention to local problems, although with the patronizing 
admission that "the gatherings of our Historical Society, of the 
vestry of Trinity Church and other local bodies are perhaps a little 
tame to one who has passed so many years at work on the affairs of 
the Nation/' He was, however, simply the president of a board of 
Commissioners on the erection of a building for the Public Library, 
elected by the City Council on n December 1854, that included 
Samuel Gray Ward, George Ticknor, Dr. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and 
Alderman George Odiorne. Although the Mason Street quarters 


were obviously Inadequate from the day the doors were opened, 
there had been a good deal of backing and filling about the idea of 
placing the library in the Public Garden, and it was not until 28 
December 1854 that the Commissioners were authorized "to locate 
the building upon the lot upon Boylston Street, if, in their opinion, 


it be deemed expedient." They deemed it so, and on 26 January 
1855 issued a public invitation to submit designs for a building on 
that site. 

The requirements for the building were, in brief, a library hall 
with alcoves capable of containing on fixed shelves at least 200,000 
volumes, a general reading room, with ample accommodations at 
tables for at least 150 readers, a ladies* reading room seating fifty, 
a room for delivery of books sufficient for at least 200 persons, an 
adjacent library room for the arrangement of 20,000 books "most 
constantly demanded for circulation," and quarters for the Trustees 
and Librarian. The fagade was to "be of brick, with stone dressing"; 
iron was to be used where required, and the general aim was for 
"a simple but substantial structure, ample in its dimensions, just in 


its proportions, absolutely fire-proof, and depending for its effect 
rather upon its adaptation to the use for which it is designed, than 
upon any ornamental architecture or costly materials/' 

An amendment of the ordinance establishing the Commissioners, 
passed on 29 March 1855, empowered them not only to select plans 
but to let contracts and superintend construction, and provided for 
the annual election of two commissioners each from the Board of 
Aldermen and the Common Council to serve with Messrs. Win- 
throp, Ward, Ticknor and Shurtleff, who were to hold office until 
the completion of the building. Twenty-four designs had been re- 
ceived and opened on 23 March, and, after a dozen meetings, the 
Commissioners selected on 27 April the plans submitted by Mr. 
Charles Kirk Kirby. Competitive bids were invited and on 14 June 
a contract was signed with Nathan Drake for the masonry. The li- 
brary in Mason Street had become so thoroughly congested that two 
small rooms in the Quincy schoolhouse in Tyler Street were made 
available for storage of books, while in August, with a prudent eye 
to expansion, additional land in Van Rensaleer Place, adjacent to 
the Boylston Street site, was purchased. 

The laying of the cornerstone on 17 September 1855, at which 
Robert C. Winthrop delivered graceful compliments to the benefac- 
tors of the library and all engaged in its construction, was duly re- 
ported to Joshua Bates, who expressed great satisfaction and came 
forward with a further offer of support. Writing to Mayor Jerome 
V. C. Smith, Bates said: 

It is, I understand, certain that within two years a building will 
be completed of dimensions amply sufficient for the reception at 
once of a large number of books, and for the regular future in- 
crease of the library ... It is desirable and important to render 
this free public library at once extensively useful as a large collec- 
tion of books in as many departments of human knowledge as pos- 
sible. For this purpose I now propose, in addition to the fund of 
fifty thousand dollars already constituted, to purchase and present 
to the City, a considerable number of books in trust, that the same 
shall always be accessible, in a convenient and becoming library 
building, to the inhabitants of Boston generally, under such reg- 
ulations as may be deemed needful by the persons to whom the 
government of the institution may, from time to time, be confided. 


This generous offer, which was promptly accepted by the City Coun- 
cil, with the request that Mr. Bates sit for a bust to be placed in the 
library, was not wholly unexpected, for on 6 July, after receiving 
plans of the building, Bates had written Ticknor: 

Nothing now remains but to provide a sufficient number of books 
for the opening. I had anticipated this difficulty, as Mr. Ward and 
Mr. Everett will no doubt have informed you. I see no other way 
but that the Committee should make out a catalogue of French, 
German and Italian books, and such English works as are most 
needed, the whole not to exceed $20,000 or $30,000. I will sup- 
ply what money your funds will not pay for, but you must tell me 
how this additional sum can be so bestowed as to secure the ap- 
plication of the Library in future time to the people as originally 

The prospect of such large immediate additions of books caused the 
Trustees to become acutely aware of their lack both of space and of 
staff, and on 1 8 October they petitioned the City Council 

... for a further appropriation, to be expended in hiring suita- 
ble premises where shelves may be immediately erected, and the 
books be opened, aired, catalogued and arranged; in paying for the 
services of the persons who will, necessarily, be employed in this 
work; and in meeting the incidental expenses so that the books 
can be put upon the shelves of the new building as soon as that 
structure shall be completed. Otherwise, a year or more will be 
lost before the books can be prepared, in the new building, for 
public use. 

As the Mason Street rooms and the Tyler Street overflow were al- 
ready filled, the Trustees rented a house at 1 3 Boylston Place, and 
were fortunate enough to persuade Charles Coffin Jewett to install 
himself there to receive the books sent by Joshua Bates. 

A better choice could not have been made, for Jewett had already 
had more than ordinary experience. As Librarian of Brown Uni- 
versity from 1841 to 1848, he had visited Europe to buy books. Be- 
coming Assistant Secretary and Librarian of the Smithsonian Insti- 
tution in 1848, he prepared the earliest general survey of American 
libraries referred to in Chapter I proposed a system of national 
cataloguing, and energetically strove to build a national library in 


the Smithsonian Institution. A controversy over the interpretation 
of Smithson's will led to Jewett's resignation and the transfer of the 
books that he had gathered to the Library of Congress. Consequently 
he was both free and disposed to turn his considerable talents to 
the benefit of the new Boston Public Library. 

George Ticknor had, all along the way, been concerned with 
every detail of the library, and spent many hours of each week 
perusing publishers' announcements, booksellers' and auction cata- 
logues. During Edward Everett's absence in Washington as Secre- 
tary of State and Senator from the autumn of 1852 to the spring of 
1854, Ticknor had carried the chief burden, although always pre- 
venting Everett who alleged that he was simply a "parade officer" 
from resigning the presidency of the Trustees. At the first inti- 
mation of Bates's second gift, Ticknor began to collect from men 
distinguished in various branches of learning such as Professors 
Agassiz, Felton, Holmes, Lovering, Pierce and many others lists 
of books on their specialized fields. Upon Jewett's arrival in Boston, 
he spent an eight hour day for some two months in Ticknor's li- 
brary, before installing himself in 1 3 Boylston Place, preparing and 
revising lists of desirable acquisitions that were transmitted to 
Joshua Bates's agents in London, Paris, Leipzig and Florence. The 
first shipment of books arrived in May 1856, and a month later 
Ticknor sailed for Europe, with a credit of $1,000 of library funds 
subsequently increased at his disposal, to make further selec- 
tions on the spot. 

The intimation in June 1855 of Bates's second gift had suggested 
to Edward Everett the need of sending not "an agent but an Envoy 
Extraordinary to Europe" on the ground as he wrote Ticknor on 
25 July that "Joshua Bates's purposes are liberal, munificent, 
but he does not know, on the present occasion, what he ought to do 
to carry his own views into effect." Ticknor had urged Everett to 
go, but the latter proposed to reverse the situation, alleging with 
modest rhetoric, 

But if I could go, it is no affected diffidence which make me say 
that you would accomplish the object much better. I have no par- 
ticular aptitude for the kind of executive operations which this 
errand requires, I mean purchasing books with discrimination 


in large masses. Perhaps I am rather deficient in it. You possess it 
in an uncommon degree. I think you would buy as many books for 
thirty thousand dollars as I should for fifty thousand, certainly 
for forty thousand dollars. 

In the end Ticknor acquiesced, spending fifteen months abroad 
from June 1856 to September 1857, travelling with his family at his 
own expense, on behalf of the library. He went first to London, 
where he spent three weeks in constant visits with Joshua Bates, of 
whom he subsequently wrote : 

To me he was a peculiar man. I knew him familiarly several years 
when we were both young; and if, after he established himself in 
Europe, I saw him rarely, still, whenever we met, as we did at 
seven or eight different periods on one or the other side of the 
Atlantic, I always found him, in what goes to make up the ele- 
ments of personal character, substantially the same. Indeed, during 
almost sixty years that I thus knew him, he was less changed than 
almost anybody I have ever been acquainted with . . . The rea- 
son, I suppose, is, that he was a true man, faithful always to his 
own convictions, and therefore little liable to fluctuations in his 
ways and character. 

After reaching a complete and happy understanding with Bates 
about the purposes of the library, Ticknor proceeded to the Conti- 
nent, spending the fall, winter, and spring in Belgium, Germany, 
Austria, Italy and France, where he made purchases totalling 
1,849/15/3. A month in the summer of 1857 he spent in London, 
largely in completing arrangements with Bates and the agencies that 
he had established on behalf of the library. 

During Ticknor's absence abroad, Jewett and his assistants were 
thoroughly occupied with the books that were pouring into 13 Boyl- 
ston Place. Within a year and a half, 142 boxes, containing 21,374 
volumes, costing $38,393, were received, unpacked, collated and 
catalogued on cards. Lack of space made it necessary to repack after 
cataloguing, and store in the basement of the new library, some forty 
boxes. In addition to the catalogue cards, Jewett prepared a short- 
title list on slips, corresponding in style to the catalogue that had 
been printed earlier for the Mason Street rooms. These furnished 
the exact entries for the accessions catalogue and were then classi- 


fied by subject, so that when the new building in Boylston Street 
was occupied the arrangement of the books themselves would be 
purely mechanical. 

While this feat of energy and skill was being accomplished by 
Jewett, the building was progressing. When Ticknor sailed for Eu- 
rope Everett had replaced him on the Board of Commissioners for 
its construction. This in no way grieved Ticknor, for he had never 
wished to be involved in questions of construction, and as the work 
progressed he felt increasingly that the building was proving too 
expensive and less well adapted to its purposes than he could have 
wished. In any event, contracts for the interior finish were let in 
July 1856, and in May of the following year for shelving. Shortly 
thereafter the Commissioners began holding their meetings in al- 
ready completed parts of the building, although final details dragged 
out over the remainder of 1857. 

Meanwhile public use of the "narrow premises" in Mason Street 
was steadily increasing, with every effort made to keep the library 
supplied with "the current literature and fresh reading of the day/' 
"Fresh" and 'light reading" seem to have had different connotations 
in the Trustees' minds, for their 1857 report contains severely pom- 
pous strictures upon the second class. 

The best interests of the institution require that it should not be 
regarded as a depository of books of the latter description. They 
are so cheap that they can be otherwise obtained by almost every 
one who wishes to read them; they occupy space on the shelves 
better filled by better books; and they increase the resort of per- 
sons to the library whose wants might be easily supplied in other 
quarters, leaving the Librarian and his assistants to devote their 
attention to more earnest and thoughtful readers. The Trustees 
are persuaded that it was not the design of the judicious and pub- 
lic-spirited citizens who, as members of the City Council in years 
past, or at the present time, have liberally appropriated the public 
funds to the foundation and support of the library, to have it be- 
come the means of gratuitously supplying to a class of idle readers, 
the unprofitable, not to say pernicious trash, which is daily pour- 
ing from the press. 

Here one detects the New England taste not only for self-improve- 
ment, but for the often involuntary improvement of others, intrud- 


Ing itself into a problem that became perennial for this and other 

With a collection that now numbered 34,896 volumes and 16,053 
pamphlets, exclusive of Joshua Bates's gifts, and with the approach- 
ing occupancy of the new building, there was natural concern about 
the future administration of the library. Under the ordinance of 
1 8 October 1852, the Trustees were empowered to make rules and 
regulations for the care and use of the library and to appoint subor- 
dinate officers, but the Librarian's post remained in the political 
sphere. While the Trustees could recommend, it was the City Coun- 
cil that appointed the Librarian, and this annually. 

Feeling that the library had advanced beyond a stage where its ad- 
ministration could safely be entrusted to the holder of an annual city 
appointment, the Trustees submitted a memorial to the City Coun- 
cil on 2 November 1857, setting forth their concept of the require- 
ments. After discussing matters of routine, the memorial continued: 

But in addition to the work of this kind, there is much to be 
done, in a first class library, of a different and higher character. 
In order to meet the demands of the community and answer the 
ends for which it was established, it must within reasonable limits, 
promptly receive every important and useful new publication, in 
our own and foreign languages. To keep it supplied in this respect, 
it is necessary that some one, whose duty it is, should devote so 
much time to the various departments of science and literature, as 
to keep himself well acquainted with their progressive condition. 
To prepare judiciously and with discrimination, the requisite se- 
lected lists of books to be annually purchased at home and abroad 
would of itself, require a considerable part of the time of an ac- 
complished bibliographer. 

An important part of the duty of those charged with the man- 
agement of large public libraries is to attend to persons, both citi- 
zens and others, who resort to them for the purposes of scientific 
and literary research. Many persons will visit the Public Library in 
Boston for this purpose. It will contain very many valuable works 
of reference, and books too costly and rare to be put into circula- 
tion, but which will be consulted by those who visit the institution. 
It belongs to the management of a great public library to answer 
the inquiries and to facilitate the researches of persons of this 
class, and no small part of the time of some of its officers will be 
taken up in this way. An extensive knowledge of books, of ancient 


and foreign languages, and of science and literature generally, is 
indispensable for the performance of this duty in a satisfactory 

In addition to these duties, to which specific reference has been 
made, the general management and administration of a first class 
library require an efficient and responsible head, possessing a de- 
gree of ability and qualifications, intellectual and literary, of a 
higher order than can be expected, on the part of young persons 
of either sex, however intelligent, who perform services of routine 
for a moderate compensation. 

The memorial requested an amendment of the existing ordinance, 
so as to provide for a "responsible superintendent/' endowed with 
the qualifications just enumerated, who would be "charged with the 
general administration of the Library under the Trustees." In op- 
posing the annual election by the City Council, the memorial con- 

The Trustees conceive that this is too precarious a tenure for 
such an office. The place of Librarian in a great public library 
nearly resembles that of a professor in a seminary of learning. The 
Trustees are not aware that it has ever been deemed expedient, in 
any part of the country to subject the teachers or the librarians in 
our universities and colleges to the uncertainty of an annual elec- 
tion, by public bodies partaking largely of a political character. As 
the Trustees are directly responsible to the City for the condition 
and working of the institution, and as the duty of making the 
requisite regulations for its management and of seeing that they 
are carried into effect, devolves on them, they are of the opinion, 
for obvious reasons, that the appointment of the Librarian and of 
any other officer, who may be established in pursuance of the fore- 
going recommendation, should be devolved upon the Board. 

The Trustees won at least a part of their point, for an amended 
ordinance, providing for a Superintendent of the library, was passed 
on 2 January 1858, even though annual appointment by the City 
Council, rather than permanent designation by the Trustees, applied 
both to this officer and the Librarian. The amended ordinance pro- 
vided for the election by the City Council of a Superintendent, 
whenever the Trustees should recommend such action and make a 
suitable nomination, who was, unless removed, to hold office for 
one year or until his successor was elected. The Trustees might dis- 


pense with the office of Superintendent in any year by omitting to 
nominate a candidate, and the City Council might dispense with 
the Superintendent's services "whenever they concluded that the 
public interest does not require the services of such an officer/' 
Whenever the office was vacant, the Superintendent's duties were 
to be performed by the Librarian. In spite of the ambiguous and 
unstable nature of the office, something had at least been gained, 
for Charles C. Jewett was immediately appointed Superintendent 
and remained in the service of the library until his death. Edward 
Capen continued to hold the title of Librarian, although that post 
was definitely subordinate to Jewett's and his duties were largely 
confined to the issue and circulation of books. 

The 1858 Trustees' Report, in commenting upon the division of 
duties between these two officers, stated that "the operations of the 
Library are conducted with entire harmony and good feeling on the 
part of all persons employed in it." More conclusive evidence is fur- 
nished by the fact that Capen remained at his diminished post until 
1874, when he resigned to accept the librarianship of the Haverhill 
Public Library, whose red brick building reflects on a reduced scale 
the design of the Boylston Street library. The same report contains 
the categorical statement that, after a single year of experience, the 
Trustees "cannot conceive of any state of things, in which the office 
of Superintendent, as now constituted, will not be absolutely neces- 
sary, in order to the efficient administration of the Library." 


The history of the Boylston Street building is summarized in an 
appendix (pp. 117172) to Proceedings at the Dedication of the 
Building for the Public Library of the City of Boston, January i } 
1858 (Boston, 1858). 

Robert C. Winthrop's somewhat boastful letter of 17 April 1855 
is quoted by Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union (New York: Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1947), I, 105. I owe this reference to the keen 
eye of Mr. Lee M. Friedman. 

For Jewett's life, see Joseph A. Borome's biography, Charles Coffin 
Jewett (Chicago: American Library Association, 1951). 


Jewett in Boylston Street 

A library has been defined to be "a collection of 
books"; but such a definition is as inadequate as 
to say that an army is a collection o men. To con- 
stitute an army the men must be organized for 
warlike operations. So, to form a library, books 
and tides must be rightly ordered for their appro- 
priate use, 


ON the afternoon of New Year's Day 1858 the doors of the new 
library in Boylston Street opened to receive ladies invited to 
the dedication ceremonies. Gentlemen taking part in this happy oc- 
casion assembled rather at the City Hall in School Street, where a 
procession of municipal, legal, military and academic guests fell 
Into columns of four. Escorted by the Boston Light Infantry, the 
male guests marched, to the music of the Boston Brigade Band, up 
School and Beacon Streets to the State House, down Park Street 
and through Tremont Street, arriving at the new library just as the 
clock of Park Street Church struck four. 

The Commissioners who had carried their task to completion 
were on hand to receive the numerous guests, to the strains of 
Rossini's overture to Mahomet II, performed by Flagg's Cornet Band. 
They could well feel pride in this addition to the city's resources, 
for the combination of functional simplicity and great scale gave 
the building a quiet but monumental character. The red brick facade 
with huge round arched windows, dressed with Connecticut sand- 
stone, surmounted by a heavy cornice, followed no recognizable 
historic model; It was, indeed, one of those designs that the late 
Walter H. Kilham in his study of Boston architecture classified as 
"plain American/' The upper hall, where the guests assembled, had 


a clear area of thirty-eight by ninety-two feet, as the use of iron had 
permitted the magnification of the traditional library form to great 
size. It was no less than fifty-eight feet high, for along its lateral 
walls were three tiers of alcoves thirty on each side with clerestory 
windows above. Here, in quarters not unlike those still in use at the 
Peabody Institute Library in Baltimore, the majority of the institu- 
tion's books were to be housed. But on i January 1858 the shelves 
were still empty, and a temporary platform, decorated with "several 
magnificent bouquets of natural flowers/' supplied by John Galvin, 
the city forester, had been installed to make the dignitaries more 
visible to the sizeable audience. 

Robert C. Winthrop, President of the Board of Commissioners 
on the erection of the library, delivered the keys to the Mayor with 
an account of his fellow Commissioners' stewardship. Mayor Alex- 
ander H. Rice received them, with suitably lengthy comment, 
eventually handing them on to Edward Everett, President of the 
Board of Trustees. Although disclaiming any intention of making 
a formal speech, Everett enlarged upon the happy occasion for 
forty-six minutes, so that it was close to seven o'clock before the 
guests were able to inspect the fine building which had, including 
the land, cost the city some $364,000. 

The accidents of architecture inevitably shape the habits of in- 
situtions. Throughout the life of the Boylston Street library the 
two floors commonly designated as the "Upper Hall" and the 
"Lower Hall" developed distinct and individual characters. From 
the central vestibule the main staircase led directly to the Upper 
Hall, where two hundred thousand volumes could be shelved, thus 
leading the reader bent on serious business to the second floor with- 
out reference to the more popular material housed in the Lower 
Hall. A door at the end of the central vestibule opened into the first 
floor Delivery Room thirty-four feet wide and fifty feet long, with 
a twelve-foot ceiling where a long counter for the issuing of books 
barred access to a thirty-four by seventy-eight foot hall extending 
across the back of the building, which had iron balconies designed 
for the circulating library and contained shelves for forty thousand 
volumes. From the Delivery Room opened the general Reading 
Room in the northwest corner, looking out on Boylston Street, with 


accommodation at tables for two hundred readers. A smaller special 
Reading Room in the northeast corner, seating one hundred, was 
provided for the use of ladies, although the high standard of de- 
corum among users of the library made such segregation of the sexes 

The extensive public use of the temporary Mason Street quarters, 
and the extraordinary number of books acquired while the library 
was under construction, made the occupation of this building, with- 
out unreasonably interrupting service, a thorny task. When one 
recalls that in 1850 Jewett had found only five libraries in the 
United States possessing fifty thousand or more volumes, the figures 
on the growth of the Boston Public Library quoted by the 1858 Ex- 
amining Committee are all the more impressive. 

Number of Number of Increase Increase of 
YEAR Volumes Pamphlets of Books Pamphlets 





























It will thus be seen that, while the Boylston Street building was going 
up, Joshua Bates's generosity had created one of the major libraries 
of the country. Early in February 1858, when the last workmen 
were out of the building, Jewett began moving Bates's gifts from 1 3 
Boylston Place. These, with the books stored in the Quincy school- 
house in Tyler Street, and such as could be spared from the Mason 
Street library, were provisionally classified and placed on the shelves 
of the Upper Hall. 

George Ticknor, whose faith in the value of a popular circulating 
library never wavered, made certain that the needs of that part of 
the institution should not suffer during the installation period. He 
insisted with firmness that the Lower Hall be opened as soon as 
possible, and that a separate index of its books be printed before 
the more imposing catalogue of the entire collection could be com- 
pleted. The Mason Street rooms were finally closed in early August; 
on 17 September the Boylston Street reading rooms opened, and by 


20 December 1858 the Index to the Lower Hall was printed and 
books were circulating once more for home use. Jewett, who, by 
the help of extra assistants, had accomplished this task in record 
time, thus described the character of the 15,000 volumes selected 

for the Lower Hall: 

These books constitute an admirable library for common use, 
selected not in accordance with any preconceived theory, but solely 
because the experience of several years had shown that they were 
the books most wanted by the mass of the people. Viewed in con- 
nection with this fact our Library is of considerable interest in 
showing the literary tastes and demands of our citizens. It might 
not be supposed that, for a mere popular library, such works as 
De la Rive on Electricity, Mushet's and Overman's Papers on Iron 
and Steel, the various volumes of Balliere's Library of Standard 
Scientific Works, the writings of Jonathan Edwards, and of Leigh- 
ton, the works of Jefferson and of Hamilton would require to be 
placed where they could be most easily reached. But such is the 
truth here, and it speaks well for the intellectual character of the 
city. It is indeed true that the greater part of the books in the lower 
hall are of a more popular character, consisting of attractive works 
in the departments of Biography, History, Voyages and Travels, 
Fiction and Poetry; but, generally, it is believed that the collection 
will be found eminently suited to promote the ultimate design of 
the Institution the intellectual and moral advancement of the 
whole people. It would probably be difficult to select the same 
number of books, better adapted to the great end of sustaining and 
directing the mental activity awakened by the noble system of pub- 
lic instruction of which Boston is so justly proud. 

Ticknor's biographer tells of the anxiety with which he watched 
operations on the opening day of the Lower Hall, and how 

, . . after witnessing the giving out of the books till eight in the 
evening, without seeing a moment's trouble or confusion, he went 
home feeling as if he had nothing more to do so far as this, in Ms 
view the most important, part of the institution was concerned. 

His mind could well be at rest, for he had in Jewett a man who saw 
the mechanical techniques of library administration purely as a 
means to an end. The following observation from the Superintend- 
ent's Report for 1858 is well worth remembering. 


A library has been defined to be "a collection of Books;" but such 
a definition is as inadequate as to say that an army is a collection 
of men. To constitute an army, the men must be organized for 
warlike operations. So, to form a library, books and titles must be 
rightly ordered for their appropriate use. 

The northeast Reading Room, not having been required for the 
exclusive use of ladies, was fitted up for periodicals, 140 of which 
were available, in addition to two hundred volumes of encyclopedias, 
dictionaries, gazetteers, and other works of ready reference. Between 
the hours of nine in the morning and ten in the evening, half of its 
hundred seats were usually steadily occupied, but the most gratify- 
ing feature of the new Lower Hall was the constant circulation of 
its books for home use; 13,329 readers registered for the use of the 
library in the first fifteen months in Boylston Street, and an average 
of 588% books left the building on each library day. This amounted 
to an annual circulation of 179,000 volumes, which was, as Jewett 
pointed out "for a library of 15,000 volumes, . . . equal to the 
loan of every book on an average nearly twelve times a year, or 
once a month/' This speaks well for the skill of Ticknor's and Jew- 
ett's selections for the Lower Hall. 

The new building opened with a staff of twenty-two, consisting 
of Jewett, the Superintendent, Edward Capen, the Librarian, a resi- 
dent janitor, and eleven male and eight female assistants, who were 
chiefly at work on the books and in the preparation of the catalogue. 
It was hoped that when matters shook down the force could be re- 
duced to fifteen, even with due regard to speed as well as economy 
of operation. 

Although the Lower Hall was functioning by the close of 1858, 
it was 1 86 1 before the Upper Hall collection was generally available 
for public use. The preparation of the printed catalogue for this 
major portion of the library would have been slow in any case, and 
the constant receipt of additional gifts made it a labor of Sisyphos. 
In August 1858, before the new building was even opened, the 
library of Nathaniel Bowditch was given by his sons Nathaniel I., 
J. Ingersoll, Henry L, and William I. Bowditch. As a poor boy in 
Salem in the seventeen eighties and nineties, Nathaniel Bowditch 
had pursued his studies in mathematics, navigation and astronomy 



through the help of books generously lent him by local clergymen 
and by the Salem Athenaeum. Notwithstanding the practical experi- 
ence of foreign voyages, he could hardly have published at twenty- 
nine his New American Practical Navigator the "seaman's Bible" 


" f. '-...'v VE"$J? t 


of American ships had uncommon scientific books not been within 
his reach during his teens. In his later and more comfortable years 
as actuary of the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company, 
Nathaniel Bowditch assembled a library of 2,500 volumes in his 
Boston house at 8 Otis Place. On his death in 1838, his children 
with singular recollection of his need for books half a century be- 
foremade his library available for public use in that house. As 


the extension and widening of Devonshire Street twenty years later 
caused the demolition of the Otis Place house, Nathaniel Bowditch's 
sons offered his library, together with twenty-one volumes of his 
manuscripts, to the City, with the sole stipulation that the books not 
circulate but be kept together in one or more separate alcoves in 
the Public Library for reference use. Bowditch had been a Fellow 
of Harvard College, President of the American Academy of Arts and 
Sciences and a Trustee of the Boston Athenaeum. With these con- 
nections, the offer to the Public Library (which did not exist in his 
lifetime) is a significant evidence of faith that, together with Tick- 
nor's concept of books for popular reading, the new institution 
would encourage the growth of reference collections for more 
learned use. Its prompt acceptance, and the decision to keep it to- 
gether in one department as the "Bowditch Library," established the 
less fortunate precedent of maintaining separate collections by 

The scientific resources of the library were further augmented 
by the great series of Specifications of English Patents, presented by 
the Patent Commissioners of Her Majesty's Government, which 
were designed to contain in 500 volumes of imperial octavo text 
and 500 of folio plates, the specifications of all inventions for 
which letters patent had been issued in England from 1617 to the 

The opening of the library in 1858 inspired not only gifts of 
books but of works of art for its decoration. An oil portrait of Ben- 
jamin Franklin, painted during his residence in Paris by Duplessis, 
was given by Edward Brooks, while a group of Boston gentlemen 
subscribed for the purchase of William W. Story's marble "Arcadian 
Shepherd Boy" as a suitable ornament for the Upper Hall. In the 
following year, 1859, another subscription secured for the library 
John Singleton Copley's large historical painting of Charles I de- 
manding the impeached members of Parliament. 

Of considerably greater extent and variety than the Bowditch 
Library was the legacy bequeathed in 1860 by the Reverend Theo- 
dore Parker, who had in the fifty years of an exceptionally active life 
assembled, with a view to writing a history of religions, a remarkable 
collection of ancient and modern works on theology, metaphysics, 


ethics, history, classical and modern literature and civil law. His 
widow generously relinquished her life-interest in the greater part 
of the collection and 11,061 volumes and 3,088 pamphlets were 
transferred to the library at once, a small residue coming to the li- 
brary upon Mrs. Parker's death in 1881. The gift was particularly 
welcome, for the library was, as Thomas Wentworth Higginson ob- 
served, collected by Mr. Parker 

. . . with a view to actual use by himself, and prospectively by 
others, and this affected its very selection from the beginning. It 
was not a show library, or the library of a technical bibliomaniac; 
it was the collection of a specialist, but that of a specialist with a 
wide horizon. It was formed by a scholar upon the lines of his own 
particular studies, but projecting those lines far beyond what he 
could reasonably expect to accomplish in a lifetime. In the midst 
of a career so exacting and laborious that, in spite of a most vigor- 
ous organization, he died an old man at fifty, Mr. Parker was al- 
ways making a collection of books that represented both his pur- 
suits and his purposes. 

In addition to these unanticipated gifts, the tried and established 
friends of the library continued unfailing support. Joshua Bates in 
1859 gave five hundred books on the history of music, including 
many rare works of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies, while in the spring of 1860 George Ticknor presented some 
two thousand volumes, chiefly of standard works in the ancient and 
modern languages, carefully selected by himself. In his letter of 
transmittal, written on 16 April 1860, Ticknor reviewed his own 
interest in the library: 

A part of the books that I have the honor to offer you are such, 
I think, as will be useful for the widest and most popular circula- 
tion. In this portion of the Library I have always felt and still feel 
the greatest interest. From the earliest suggestion of such an insti- 
tution, it has been my prevalent desire that it should be made use- 
ful to the greatest possible number of our fellow-citizens, espe- 
cially to such of them as may be less able than they would gladly 
be to procure pleasant and profitable reading for themselves and 
their families. This is known to all the Trustees with whom I 
have successively served, and our President remembers, that I 
never would have put my hand to the institution at all, except with 


this understanding as to its main object and management. Nor 
has there been any real difference on this point among the differ- 
ent persons who have controlled its affairs during the eight years 
of its existence. The consequence is, that there has been spent for 
books of the most popular character, not merely an amount equal 
to all that, in successive years, has been saved from the grants of 
the City Government for the support of the Library, but other 
large sums derived from different sources, such as the income of 
the funds given by Mr. Bates and other generous friends of the 
Institution. In this way there has been collected in our Lower 
Hall, a library, which, considering the short time employed in 
gathering it, is, I think, both large and well fitted to its purposes, 
and one which is rapidly increasing, and growing more useful. 
The rest of our collection the part of it, I mean, in our Upper 
Hall has come to us almost entirely by gift, and chiefly from the 
rich donation of Mr. Bates, who, over and above the books pur- 
chased with the income of his fund of fifty thousand dollars, has 
sent us more than five and twenty thousand other volumes of 
great value. 

The result is known. There has been an immense circulation, 
one much larger than the most sanguine had anticipated. It was 
great from the beginning, and it has increased every year. In the 
ten months after December, 1858, when the Library was first 
opened in the new building, it rose to more than an hundred and 
forty-nine thousand volumes; and when the contents of the Up- 
per Hall shall have been long enough accessible to the public to 
have their value felt, the number of books lent will, no doubt, be 
increased still further. Such a free circulation from a public library 
is, I suppose, without a parallel in any city not larger than Boston, 
and seems to be an appropriate reward for the munificence of its 
patrons and for the fostering care of the municipal government. 

But, notwithstanding the precedence, which in my judgment 
should be given to this portion of the Library, there is another part 
of it which, it can hardly be doubted, deserves great attention, I 
mean its books which do not circulate, but which are kept in the 
building, always at hand for reference and use . , . 

After praising the utility of the British Patent Specifications and the 
Bowditch Library, Ticknor continued: 

. . . Such collections, I need not say, are everywhere of the 
greatest importance to the progress of knowledge, but are of more 


value to persons who have not in thek homes convenient arrange- 
ments for study, than to any others. We have, however, hardly any 
such collections in New England, and not one freely open for the 
use of all, like the Public Library. 

I, therefore, fulfill now the intention I expressed to you so long 
ago, and send to the Superintendent a list of the books which, I 
hope, you will permit me to contribute to this part of the Insti- 
tution. A few of them are already on our shelves, but it seems to 
be well that of these books, as of many others, a single copy should 
always be reserved in the Library, so that no person who may come 
there to consult and use it may be disappointed. Others of the 
books, I have the pleasure to offer you, may be infrequently asked 
for, but, when they are wanted, they will be found, I think, im- 
portant, since copies of many of them cannot elsewhere be ob- 
tained, except after a troublesome search, if at all. I have wanted 
them much myself, and, because there was no public library in 
which I could obtain them, I have bought them, often very re- 
luctantly. I shall be happy if I am permitted to relieve others from 
this necessity. 

Of the 2,418 volumes that accompanied this letter, four or five 
hundred were designated for general circulation. The remainder, 
which included such works as the Benedictine Histoire litteraire de 
la France, Du Gangers Glossaria, Schilter's Thesaurus antiqidtatum 
Teutonicantm, Scherz's Glossarium Gennanicum, and the Classici 
Italiani in 250 volumes, were considered as works of reference that 
should not normally leave the building. In addition to this large gift, 
George Ticknor also, during 1860, gave the library from ten to fifty 
copies each of such improving books as the life of Amos Lawrence, 
Bulfinch's life of Matthew Edwards, the boy inventor, Everett's life 
of Washington, Samuel Smiles's Self Help, and Florence Nightin- 
gale's book on nursing, wishing to try the experiment of multiply- 
ing available copies of books that were not only interesting but 
useful. This good idea worked less well than most of Ticknor's, for 
the Examining Committee of 1861, while turning its nose up at 
novels, had the honesty to admit that on 12 April 1861 49 out of 
50 copies of Miss Nightingale, 16 out of 20 copies of Smiles, 10 out 
of 10 copies of Lawrence, and 17 out of 20 of Everett's Washing- 
ton were on the shelf. "The demand had not increased since/' 


Notwithstanding the delays occasioned by these important addi- 
tions, Jewett's staff pushed ahead with the preparation of copy for 
the Index of the Upper Hall. When this was finally printed, in the 
autumn of 1861, the entire resources of the library were available 
to readers. It also became possible for most of the 74,000 Upper Hall 
books to circulate. For this purpose borrowers were issued separate 
cards for Upper Hall use, which allowed the withdrawal of one 
volume at a time, without reference to the volume that might be 
permitted on a Lower Hall card. No great increase in circulation 
was anticipated, for it had always been the policy to place in the 
Lower Hall books that were likely to be in considerable demand, 
but the publication of the Index represented a notable step forward 
in making the total contents of the library available "to persons little 
in habits of study, as well as to those who devote themselves to the 
severest scientific investigations/' While this index was in prepara- 
tion, no less than four supplements to the 1858 Lower Hall index 
had been issued, for the volumes available in that division of the 
library had by 1861 increased from 15,000 to 19,161. With Theo- 
dore Parker's great bequest the aggregate for the whole institution 
had reached 97,386. 

A year later, on the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the 
Trustees, the total had risen to 105,034. Capital funds for the pur- 
chase of books had been augmented by a $10,000 bequest from 
the Honorable Abbott Lawrence in 1860 and one of $20,000 from 
the Honorable Jonathan Phillips in 1861. The country was in the 
second year of the Civil War, and although many familiar faces 
were missing, there seemed no diminution of interest in the library, 
for the circulation of books for home use reached the new height 
of 180,302. In June 1861 some hundreds of duplicate books had 
been sent to Boston troops in the service of the United States, but 
those who remained at home also found use for the library services. 
The 1862 Examining Committee remarked: 

The library was most needed, it seems, at such a time. It has been 
frequented by those who were studying history and statistics with 
reference to our present crisis, and by those who were interested 
in the arts of war by sea and by land, in military engineering, and 
military surgery; and not only by those intent upon pursuits of 


public import, but also by those who sought relief from the weight 
of anxieties and cares, pressing heavily upon every class o the 

With the death of Joshua Bates at London on 24 September 1 864, 
the Public Library lost its most valued friend and generous bene- 
factor. Larger gifts than his followed in later decades, but none have 
had so decisive an effect, for it was the immediate response of 
Joshua Bates to the 1852 Trustees' Report that inspired the City of 
Boston to spend far greater sums of the public money to bring Tick- 
nor's and Everett's dream into being. Before his intervention there 
were words; after it there was a library. Thus it was appropriate 
that the Upper Hall of the Boylston Street building should be re- 
named in his honor, and that the present Bates Hall in Copley 
Square should perpetuate the memory of this able, single-hearted 
and generous New Englander who passed most of his life overseas. 

Four months later Edward Everett, President of the Trustees of 
the Public Library since their establishment, left the scene. His 
death on 15 January 1865 ended a life-long friendship with George 
Ticknor that, during the previous fifteen years, had led to almost 
daily meetings and the exchange of hundreds and hundreds of notes 
and letters concerning the library. Ticknor succeeded Everett as 
President, but with reluctance, for he was in his seventy-fourth year. 
In 1866 he passed the duties of the presidency on to William Whit- 
well Greenough a close associate in the affairs of the library since 
his election in 1856 who continued in that office until 1888. 

The disappearance of the founders underlines the passage of time. 
As the library became an established part of the community and 
ceased to be a novelty it alternately benefitted and suffered. The 
deposit in 1866 of the library bequeathed to the Old South Church 
in 1758 by its minister, the Reverend Thomas Prince, represented 
a tremendous gain. Although title to these books remained with the 
Deacons of the Old South Church, the physical custody of the re- 
markable collection made available to readers works of the highest 
rarity upon the early history of New England. On the debit side, as 
Jewett's report for 1866 points out, "instances of ungenerous if not 
of wanton and criminal abuse of confidence" multiplied in the mis- 
use of books in the Lower Hall. Thieving fingers made away with 


periodicals and reference books; obscene words and drawings were 
scribbled, and someone even stole both a Bible and a Concordance! 
"One boy sold his father's card for four cents to another boy, who 
lent it to a third, who lost both book and card; but the three boys 
came to the Library, and united to pay for the book lost." To cope 
with these problems, periodicals were removed from tables and 
placed behind a desk under the care of an attendant who issued 
them upon written application. To keep more efficient track of 
books in circulation, Jewett abandoned the traditional method of 
recording loans in large ledgers and devised a system of charge slips 
which both increased the speed of service and furnished a rapid clue 
to the whereabouts of books not on the shelves. 

Books in the library were arranged upon a "decimal system" origi- 
nated by Dr. N. B. Shurtleff, by which the fixed shelves were so 
numbered that the figures in the place of hundreds denoted the 
alcove, those in the place of tens the ranges, and those in the place 
of units the shelves. Thus a book numbered 2236 would obviously 
be found, even by the dimmest intelligence, on the 6th shelf of the 
3rd range of the 22nd alcove. To save the time of both readers and 
staff Jewett devised for the Delivery Room an "Indicator," which 
showed visually whether books belonging to the Lower Hall were 
in or out. This contraption consisted of a row of reversible pins for 
each shelf, with the number denoting the order of the book on the 
shelf on each end of the pin. The end containing the number in 
black on white ground was exposed when the book was known to be 
on the shelf. When it was taken out, the pin was flipped over, ex- 
posing the number in white on black ground, at the sight of which 
the intelligent inquirer would promptly go away without troubling 
anyone by asking foolish questions! The gadget was doubtless far 
from fool-proof, but its very existence shows something of Jewett's 
ideal of rapid and ingenious service. 

The annually appointed Examining Committee, consisting of five 
citizens at large with a member of the Board of Trustees as Chair- 
man, furnished a valuable check upon the policies and conduct of 
the library. No one of these had ever given as complete and search- 
ing an analysis as the 1867 Examining Committee, working under 
the chairmanship of Justin Winsor, a thirty-six-year-old literary 


man who had been elected a Trustee that very year. Winsor's group 
not only found good and bad features, but presented them with 
equal frankness. The building, after nine years of use, had not come 
up to expectations. Its main defects were 

A want of light in some of the alcoves of the Bates Hall, of ventila- 
tion in the lower story, and the absence of working-rooms. More- 
over, a mistake had been made in the height of the alcoves, since 
moveable steps are required to reach the higher shelves, a fault 
too late, probably, now to remedy. 

Light and ventilation would not be improved without major re- 
building. Bates Hall, with its tiers of alcoves and galleries, looked 
very fine, but as the building was without working rooms for the 
staff, all collating, cataloguing and preparation of books for the 
shelves had to be done in the alcoves, where there was scarcely room 
for two people to pass beside the tables. Moreover, the binders who 
had been employed since 1863 in making repairs "are necessarily 
put to some inconvenience in timing the noisier parts of their trade 
to intervals when the hall is free from readers." The Reading Room 
was often overcrowded, and even the shelves were causing concern. 
Although the building, designed to accommodate 240,000 volumes, 
only contained 136,000 plus 35,000 pamphlets in 1867, subjects 
were already encroaching upon each other. "Accordingly, though 
the shelves of the Bates Hall will still accommodate a large accession 
of volumes, not many thousands more can be received without de- 
parting locally from the classifications so needful to make a library 
useful." Moreover the need of keeping the Parker Library together 
caused major disturbance, which would be increased by the accept- 
ance of further gifts with like conditions. Consequently a series of 
independent rooms "to relieve the present hall of these minor con- 
solidated collections, and not only to lodge, but to invite further 
accessions of a like character" seemed highly desirable. 

In contrast to the defects of the building, the increase of books 
was highly satisfactory. With a total of 136,000, the Examining 
Committee felt that "there is reason to believe that the Boston Pub- 
lic Library is destined to become the largest on this continent," for 
it was then surpassed in size only by the Library of Congress. Fur- 
thermore, the record of gifts showed a sustained public interest in 


the library. The catalogues were found adequate, with the comment 
that "the card system for an unprinted catalogue with full titles is 
more and more valued with experience." Records were in good order 
and expenditures properly cared for. The pamphlet collection was, 
however, getting out of hand, and additional help was needed to 
keep it in useful order. 

Closing for the annual examination of books during August, plus 
52 Sundays and six holidays, reduced the number of open days to 
approximately 278 per year. It was admitted that "the task of seeing 
that every volume of a hundred and thirty-six thousand is in its 
proper place is no small one, and the recess is not by any means a 
season of relaxation to the attendants/' but "it will be fortunate, if 
in coming years, this work can be kept within the month." 

The Committee felt that the library was conducted so as to be as 
useful as possible to all classes. 

The institution was begun expressly on popular grounds. Mr. 
Everett, in his letter to the Mayor, in 1851, called it the comple- 
tion of our public school system, and that has been a favorite desig- 
nation of it ever since. In the preliminary report of 1852 the 
body of which was drawn by Mr. Ticknor it was wisely recom- 
mended that a beginning should be made without any sharply de- 
fined plan, so that suggestions from experience could be made 
effectual; and it was not thought well to make it at once an impos- 
ing, learned or scientific collection, but rather to gather a library 
most fitted for the masses. Mr. Ticknor whose contributions to 
the Library in time and experience cannot be overvalued ex- 
pressly says, in a letter accompanying a valuable donation of books 
in 1860, that he would "never have put his hand to the institu- 
tion at all, but with the understanding that it should be made use- 
ful to the greatest possible number of citizens;" and he says that 
for eight years there had not been any real difference among the 
Trustees on that point, nor can we learn that there has been any 

Up to 1856 the system of purchases had looked to supplying 
the most popular wants. The collection, which had then grown to 
near 30,000 volumes, was deemed large enough to satisfy the 
most reasonable demands of a general kind; and it began to be felt 
that there were particular classes of our citizens, apart from the 
general body, whose wants deserved recognition. So about that time 


we find that books in the foreign tongues began to be added, and 
the higher departments of literature more fully developed. The 
donations to the Trust Funds, now accruing, in being expended 
for books of solid and permanent value, served to strengthen very 
materially the upper classifications; while Mr. Bates* last munifi- 
cent gift of books developed our weight in the same direction. The 
time was now come when it was very properly agreed that there 
was no department of learning, which some portion of the com- 
munity was not interested in; and that every department should 
be cared for to meet such requirements. So the two distinct col- 
lections have been developed the Lower Hall to meet the ordi- 
nary demands of the people, and the Bates to serve the higher 
requirements of the studious classes, or of investigators in special 
matters a scheme which your Committee cannot but think nat- 
urally evolved, and conducive to the satisfaction of every mental 
grade, and answering the requirements of all the intellectual de- 
mands of the community. 

The privilege of requesting books for purchase and the expeditious 
service were favorably commented upon, while a series of argu- 
ments to justify the exclusion of readers from the shelves were set 

The City Ordinance for the government of the library needed 
improvement. A revision in 1865 had given the Trustees the right 
to appoint the Superintendent and the Librarian, previously retained 
by the City Council, but not the responsibility for fixing their 

In assigning duties to the various officers, they [the Trustees] are 
not free to exercise fully their own judgment, until the apportion- 
ment of the salaries goes with the assignment. They have this 
liberty in all cases but with the Superintendent and Librarian, on 
whom the most responsibility falls, and upon whose trustworthi- 
ness they must depend before all others. It is eminently proper that 
the City Council should fix the limit in the aggregate of all salaries, 
but it seems to your Committee that it would be desirable to re- 
move the restraint now existing, so that the Trustees may appor- 
tion the recompense, as well as define the duties, of all under, 
them, within some aggregate limits. 

In 1866 a further revision had doubled the representation from the 
Common Council on the Board of Trustees and added one from the 
citizens at large, making the new board to consist of nine rather than 


seven members. The terms of tenure were altered so that five new 
members, or a majority, might come onto the board at a single elec- 
tion. This, to the Examining Committee, obviously opened the pos- 
sibility of throwing the control of the library "into the hands of the 
inexperienced, or of those chosen, in obedience to some passion of 
the hour, on other grounds than their peculiar fitness/' They urged 
that tenure be so altered that at least two successive elections should 
be required to change the predominant character of the board. 

The most penetrating and original analyses of Winsor's Examin- 
ing Committee concerned the circulation of books. To find an appro- 
priate basis for comparison, the Committee resorted to statistics from 
the Manchester library, which since its opening in 1852 had been 
the pioneer in the British public library movement. At a new regis- 
tration for borrower's privileges in Boston in 1866, some twelve or 
thirteen thousand cards had been issued and 183,714 books with- 
drawn from the Lower Hall, while at Manchester, with only 7,339 
cards in use, very nearly the same number of books circulated. The 
Committee observed that the Manchester system of branch libraries 
"brings its books much nearer to a large number of households," and 

With a system of branch libraries with us, say one in Roxbury, 
one in South Boston, and one in East Boston, it seems probable 
that our popular circulation could be made far larger relatively, 
than it is even now to the most successful of such establishments 
at home and abroad. At Manchester, the system is well established 
and works successfully . . . The accumulation of duplicates at a 
central library is always less burdensome, when there are supple- 
mental institutions among which to share them. 

In Bates Hall the average daily delivery was 92 volumes, while the 
largest delivered in any one day was 206. Since the opening in 1862 
the total number lent for home use had been 53,920, and the 13,- 
696 of the previous year set a record. In Manchester the Reference 
Library, although one-third the size of Bates Hall, showed three 
times the number of users. Nevertheless Manchester had twice the 
population of Boston and fewer rivals. 

. . . while within much the same area, and with a far smaller 
population, the Boston Public library must share this class of more 


or less cultivated frequenters, with the collections of Harvard Col- 
lege and the Boston Athenaeum. Besides this, we in this commu- 
nity are uncommonly well supplied with lesser collections, accessi- 
hle to persons making investigations, like the libraries of the 
Historical Society, the Genealogical Society, State Library, the 
Academy Library, the Social Law Library, the old Boston Library, 
the General Theological Library, etc., so that in the aggregate 
there are at least half a million volumes in our community, acces- 
sible to the public, or reached with ease by anyone desiring to use 

The character of the reading in the two halls was contrasted. In 
the five years that Bates Hall Lad been in use, the average yearly use 
of books in the several classifications had been : 

Per cent 

English History and Literature 1 7 

Useful and Fine Arts 10 

American History and Literature 9 

Theology, Metaphysics, Ethics, Education 8 

Periodicals 7 

Mathematics and Physics 7 

Medicine 6 

French History and Literature 6 

General History and Literature 4 

Italian History and Literature 4 

Natural History 4 

Transactions of Learned Societies 4 

German History and Literature 3 

Greek and Latin 3 
Other (including Oriental) History and 

Literature 3 

Bibliography 2 

Law and Political Economy 2 

Miscellaneous i 

The preliminary report of 1852 had contended that, if the habit 
of reading could be engendered, it would go on improving in char- 
acter. As the Trustees detected, or thought they detected, a "demand 
for higher and higher classes of literature/' they became less willing 
to buy novels. "In 1859, it was reported, that only the best of the 
lighter class of literature was bought. The next year there was a 
marked falling off in circulation." Although attempts had been 


made to discover the genuine demand for fiction, it was only in 
1866, when Jewett introduced the slip system of charging, that an 
accurate count became possible. Winsor's Examining Committee 
therefore offered the following analysis the first accurate one to 
be made of the 183,000 volumes circulating from the Lower Hall 
in 1866: 

Per cent 

Fiction and Juveniles 68.2 

Libraries, Collections, etc. 6.2 

Science, Arts, Professions 6.6 

Drama, Poetry, Rhetoric, Belles Lettres 4.7 

Travels 4.8 

History and Politics 2.9 

Biography 3.9 

Foreign Languages 2.7 

As the class "Libraries, Collections, etc/' included sets containing 
novels, the total of fiction circulating reached at least 70 per cent 
of the whole. 

This large proportion for a class of literature that ordinarily in- 
cludes so much that is morbid or even pernicious, may alarm some 
of the good friends of the institution, but the subject is not to be 
dismissed without examination from many points; and your com- 
mittee are of the opinion that although they might wish a different 
record, they must accept the condition as arising from the mental 
tendency of the masses of the community; and they hope to show 
that the result with us is no worse than elsewhere, and even some- 
times creditable by comparison . . . 

Fiction in the Manchester library as early as 1857 had accounted 
for five-eighths of the circulation, while three quarters of the cur- 
rent purchases of the New York Mercantile Library were novels. 

Your Committee, then, are not of the opinion that this large per- 
centage of fiction with us, is anything that need surprise or alarm 
us. Good fiction is doubtless salutary, and the general character of 
juvenile literature is much improved over what it formerly was 
. . . We may say that the best novels are seldom read in a way to 
do the most good; but that is a circumstance of course beyond any 
library's control, and there is a good deal to say in favor of supply- 
ing the masses with reading of even an inferior order rather than 


that they should not read at all ... It needs must be that to 
most minds of a low intellectual culture, books must be of a char- 
acter attractive in subject to that grade, or they will not be re- 
garded at all. Once regarded, there is a fair chance of substituting 
for books attractive in subject, those attractive in manner, thus 
leading to a higher range of subjects. 

A detailed analysis of authors in demand placed Cooper and Marryat 
far ahead of all competitors. 

Winsor's report pictured as the result of fifteen years of honest 
experiment a library of great size, soundly administered although 
inconveniently housed, consisting in the approximate proportion 
of four to one of a learned collection scantly used because of re- 
sources available elsewhere in the region, and of a highly active 
popular circulating collection in which fiction predominated. The 
library had been designed for the people, and they were using it, 
but the improvement of popular taste was, it seemed, a slowish 


For the Eowditch Library, see Circular to the Patrons of the Bow- 
ditch Library with, the documents on the occasion of its being pre- 
sented to the Public Library of the City of Boston, August 28, 1858 
(Boston, 1858). 


The Winsor Decade 

Mr. Winsor was the first librarian I ever saw 
wliose fundamental policy, never lost sight of for 
a moment, was to get books used, even though they 
should be used up. 


npHE year 1858 had opened happily and confidently with the 
JL dedication of the Boylston Street library. Ten years later the 
mood was sadly different, for on the afternoon of 8 January 1868 
the indefatigable and invaluable Superintendent, Charles Coffin 
Jewett, was attacked by apoplexy while working at his desk. Parti- 
ally paralyzed, he was carried home to Braintree, where he died 
soon after midnight. The Trustees might well enter in their minutes 
that they "feel no common sorrow, and experience unwonted be- 
wilderment/' and resolve 

that in the death of Charles Coffin Jewett this Library is de- 
prived of a steadfast friend, and an officer of such ingenious mind 
and such rare knowledge apposite to his duty, that we hardly know 
where to find his equal, 

for, although only in his fifty-second year, he had made a unique 
place for himself in the rapidly expanding world of librarians. Since 
coming to Boston in 1856, Jewett had quietly, rapidly and unerr- 
ingly applied his considerable talents to converting Ticknor's and 
Everett's plans into reality. Now when with Everett dead and 
Ticknor in retirement Jewett was needed more than ever, he sud- 
denly and without warning left the scene. Moreover, his principal 
assistant, Professor William Everett Jillson, former Librarian of the 
Patent Office, who had come permanently to Boston in 1865, was 


far gone in consumption and spitting blood. Although soon chosen 
to succeed Jewett, Jillson was prevented by ill health from attempt- 
ing the Superintendent's duties, and he too died within the year. 

William F. Poole, who had aspired to the librarianship before 
the appointment of Edward Capen, now showed signs of wishing 
to succeed Jewett as Superintendent. At least on 15 February 1868 
he resigned the post that he had held since 1856 as Librarian of 
the Boston Athenaeum, without having any other pressing employ- 
ment in view. It has been assumed that he took this unexpected step 
to indicate his candidacy for the Public Library vacancy, but, meet- 
ing with no more success than in 1852, he reached the culmination 
of his career in Cincinnati and Chicago, rather than Boston. After 
discovering that Jillson could not carry on, the Trustees of the 
Public Library, rather than consider Poole, took an imaginative step 
that proved to be as successful as it was both bold and unexpected. 
They appointed Justin Winsor Superintendent. 

Winsor had been a Trustee for a year. He was a man of letters, 
without previous library experience, but in a few months he had 
taken better stock of the situation than most men would have in a 
decade. His report as Chairman of the 1867 Examining Committee 
showed his analytical and administrative powers. Indeed, as his 
successor, Mellen Chamberlain, recalled to the Massachusetts His- 
torical Society thirty years later, 

This report attracted attention far and wide as a masterly, indeed 
as an unprecedented, presentation of all conceivable questions re- 
lating to the public library and its constituents. 

Winsor happened to have chosen a literary career, but he was the 
kind of New Englander who would have made his mark at sea a 
generation or two earlier, for he had, as Judge Chamberlain pointed 
out, administrative and executive powers that would have made him 
equally able in managing a great railroad or a manufacturing corpo- 
ration. When he took up his duties as Superintendent in July 1868, 
Winsor set about remedying with remarkable speed and precision 
the defects that he had noted in the Examining Committee report. 
Cotton Mather would undoubtedly have asserted that "the Lord 
raised up Justin Winsor to undertake this work." Even latter-day 


Bostonians would agree that his appointment was in the nature of 
a remarkable providence. 

One of Winsor's first moves was to discover what could be done 
elsewhere as a guide to what should be done in Boston. The 1868 
library report bears on its inside cover this characteristic note : 

The Superintendent would respectfully invite correspondence with 
librarians and others interested upon points of library economy 
raised in this report; and in behalf of this library would particu- 
larly request, where it has not already been done, that sets of the 
printed reports, blanks, forms, etc., used in other libraries, may be 
forwarded to him. 

Similarly Winsor's own report, after dealing with the inadequacies 
of the Boylston Street building, turns at once to the relative position 
of the Boston Public Library among comparable institutions in the 
country. It will be recalled that in 1850 Jewett listed but five li- 
braries containing upwards of 50,000 books. In 1868 Winsor found 
ten, with his own in second place. 

Volumes Pamphlets 

Library of Congress 175,000 70,000 

Boston Public Library 144,000 50,000 

Astor Library, New York 138,000 

Harvard College Library 1 1 8,000 100,000 

Boston Athenaeum 100,000 70,000 

New York Mercantile Library 98,000 

Philadelphia Library Company 85,000 

Library of Parliament, Ottawa 60,000 

Yale College Library 50,000 20,000 

American Antiquarian Society 50,000 

Of all ten, Boston was the only library supported in the main by 
municipal grants, for in that group, Winsor found that only two 
other of the public libraries of this country had as yet assumed any 
considerable proportions, namely that of 

New Bedford 21,000 volumes 
Cincinnati 20,000 volumes 

while the largest of the English public libraries, established by the 
Parliamentary acts that allowed an assessment of a penny in the 


pound valuation for their support, was Liverpool, with 84,000 

To obtain further information in this direction, Winsor circu- 
lated a questionnaire among several hundred libraries, American 
and foreign, explaining in his 1869 report: 

There is not a library in the country of a public nature but we 
are glad to be in correspondence with it, and to exchange the data 
of our experience and practice. The measure of our gift in this way 
may be, in the nature of the case, in many instances greater than 
the return; but we have not failed to profit by what has been given 
to us. The interchange of bibliothecal experience is almost alone 
wanting to carry the knowledge of library science to the limit of 
proficiency. The time may come, as Mr. Edwards remarks, when 
annuals of library progress may be as regularly published as the 
statistics of manufactures and trade. Till then, the exchange of 
documents and reports must supply the need. During the past 
year, I have done much to establish relations of good fellowship 
with the libraries of this continent; and our exchange list now 
numbers over four hundred different libraries, over one-quarter 
of which are foreign. 

The results were tabulated in Appendices xxn-xxv to the report. 
In these forty pages, Winsor offered a more complete picture of li- 
braries in the United States than had previously existed, together 
with notes on the practices of certain European institutions with 
which he had been in correspondence. In general, Winsor's reports 
exceeded Jewett's in usefulness, for he invariably included, in addi- 
tion to the customary listing of donors, detailed statistics upon every 
conceivable subject concerning the library's books, their nature, 
growth, use and abuse. Comparative financial statements and de- 
tailed lists of staff members, with indication of their duties, soon 
appear. The Trustees rightly described Winsor J s 1869 report as 

... a treatise upon the condition of our own and other libraries, 
forming an important contribution to a new department of litera- 
ture, the science of management of popular libraries. It will render 
bibliographical and practical aid to a class of young men and 
women, now much desired in libraries, to whom special education 
needed for such positions had been heretofore entirely beyond 


The 1867 Examining Committee had been very frank about the 
inadequacies of the Boylston Street building. Ten years later Win- 
sor wrote. 

Its faults are radical, and grew partly out of the inexperience of 
those, or rather a majority of the commission, superintending its 
erection, the records of that body showing a vote of four to three 
on all essential points concerned in arranging the plans, which 
induced an inability to comprehend the extent of work needful to 
be done in a rapidly growing Library, and partly from a sacrifice 
of fitness to a desire for ostentation. 

The Examining Committee for 1870 minced no words when it said: 

It will be generally conceded, that whether we consider its external 
design or its internal plan, the building is equally a failure. With 
the former we have nothing to do, since no added beauty there 
would increase the conveniences of the officers of the Library or of 
the public who use it. But the sins of the interior cry aloud con- 
tinually and in vain for a remedy. The crypt-like Delivery Room, 
the narrow and ill-lighted Reading Room, the dark staircase with 
its wretched landings, where one stands groping for the handle 
of the door which should not be needed, the pretentious Hall 
above, fit enough for a music hall or an exchange, but as little like 
a library-room as it could well be made, the dark alcoves piled up 
three stories high, and shrouding the books in an almost impenetra- 
ble gloom; finally, the inexcusable absence of ventilation through- 
out the building; these are the daily and hourly misfortunes of all 
who have occasion to pass much of their time within these walls. 
To remedy the faults of the present building is impossible. 

As it was sometimes necessary on short winter afternoons to suspend 
delivery of books in Bates Hall because the staff could not read the 
book numbers in the Stygian alcoves, Winsor first provided the run- 
ners with "dark lanterns." Subsequently he installed gas jets and 
later broke windows through the exterior walls. Similarly he moved 
the noisy binders from Bates Hall alcoves to the basement, and by 
1869 had three of them working busily there in a "permanent and 
suitable apartment . . . with every necessary appliance in all de- 
partments of the trade/' After such obvious improvements had been 
made, Bates Hall, at least to the casual visitor, had an air of dignity 
and decorum. An article on the library in the 2 December 1871 
issue of Appletoris Journal thus describes the vast room: 


It is fifty-two feet high, clear. It contains three stories o alcoves 
on the sides. Twenty-two massive pillars, with bases of marble, 
enclose the space used by the public, and in the rear of them are 
the shelves. Between the bases of the pillars are heavy desks, turned 
outward, and supplied with conveniences for writing. Large oval 
tables, six feet long, are distributed in the apartment, and the 
chairs are cushioned. 

The colors of the wall are neutral, and the tints are subdued. 
The ceiling is richly ornamented, and, to an American, its elevation 
is startling. The floor is tiled, and every step and tone resounds 
as if the place were a cavern. The effect is impressive. The stairway 
emerges into the centre of the hall, and the space over one's head 
is clear and unbroken by galleries. 

Twenty or thirty people are usually to be found here, some 
writing, most of them reading hard, and a few gazing about them. 
All are quiet. Few sounds break the silence, except, now and then, 
the tap of the cancelling stamp at the desk, a footfall in the cor- 
ridors, or the faint rustle of book-leaves. 

The noise of the street sinks to a muffled hum, and one catches, 
through the windows, a sight of the verdure of the beautiful Com- 
mon. There is no more civilizing place in the country. 

Civilizing amenities hardly extended to the Lower Hall Delivery 
Room, where the lion's part of the library's business was transacted. 

It is in this somewhat limited apartment that a visitor gets his 
first hint of the magnitude of the operations of the library. At all 
hours of the day groups of people throng it and quietly pursue 
their objects. At one desk they return the volumes which are read, 
and apply for others; while at another desk the distinct but monot- 
onous voice of the attendant calls, at intervals, the names of those 
for whom books are ready, or those whose applications have been 

At six in the evening, when the schools have emptied, and all 
workers of both sexes are free to go to their homes, this room be- 
comes one of the sights of the city. It fills to repletion. Children 
throng its floor, and are wonderfully sharp to the little tricks of 
competition for early attention. It is amusing to see with what 
rapidity an old stager of twelve years, with a cropped head and 
a quick eye, will put his errand through. He will monopolize a 
wide section of desk-room with extended elbows, pounce in a 
single flourish upon the exact catalogue out of the many, get his 
number out of the multitude of other numbers, pencil it and his 


name with precise care upon Ms paper and deliver it up to the 
clerk, all the while an unaccustomed visitor will be engaged in 
the first part of the transaction, namely, deciding what book he 
would like to have. This well done, the boy must await develop- 
ments; and, American-like, he improves the interval. He goes to 
the adjacent reading-room, and, securing an illustrated paper, sits 
himself down within sound of the attendant's voice, to wait and 
read until his book or disappointment turns up. 

The assembled crowd is often motley. But, the more motley, 
the more various and dissimilar its ingredients, the better the proof 
of the wide-spread influence of the library. Rich and poor assem- 
ble together and alike in this narrow dispensary, and a great many 
of them too. 

So many, in fact, that Dr. George Derby, Secretary of the State 
Board of Health, considered the Delivery Room air on crowded win- 
ter afternoons to be more foul and unwholesome than that of any 
other room in Massachusetts. As early as 1869, the Trustees were 
marvelling "how many are willing to submit to the inconvenience of 
such a crowded, ill-ventilated apartment/' 

As these were the readers for whom the library had been founded, 
Justin Winsor took steps to discover who they were, as an essential 
preliminary to finding out what they wanted and devising better 
means of getting it to them. His 1869 report contains an analysis 
in tabular form (Appendix xix) of the occupations of over eleven 
thousand readers who had registered the previous year. Forty-six 
per cent were women, while "what may be called the educated 
classes form 10 per cent of the whole number, including women, 
and not including any of the 37 per cent of the whole number, male 
and female, who gave no occupation." The picture, in summary 
form, appeared to be: 

Males Females Totals Percent 

Trades, Manufactures, etc. 1,001 584 1*585 15 

Dealers, Shopkeepers, etc. 234 6 240 2 

Mercantile callings 2,006 116 2,122 19 

Professional classes 746 396 1,142 n 

Official classes, etc. 165 3 1 68 i 

Laboring classes 242 3 245 2 

Miscellaneous classes 1,038 434 1,472 13 

No occupation given 585 3,708 4,293 37 

6,017 5,250 11,267 


Had Joshua Bates been alive, the primacy of the mercantile classes 
would have confirmed and strengthened his faith, for 926 clerks, 
417 salesmen, 320 merchants and 237 bookkeepers appeared among 
the library's readers. The professional classes, even when repre- 
sented by 394 teachers, 132 physicians, 107 lawyers and 82 clergy- 
men, were not so creditably represented as the trades. It is less 
surprising to note 161 printers than 154 carpenters, 31 piano mak- 
ers, 25 organ builders, and 25 blacksmiths. In Winsor's statistics 
only a solitary representative appeared in each of the occupations 
of artificial leg maker, butcher, embalmer, tallow chandler, liquor 
dealer, pawnbroker, minstrel, alderman, ballet girl, sheriff and 
billiard hall keeper, although 60 porters and 49 laborers were regis- 
tered. Moreover, among the crowd jostling each other in the foul- 
smelling Delivery Room might be found as many as 9 bartenders, 4 
Sisters of Charity, 4 oyster openers (one male and three female) 3 
street waterers, 2 wood choppers and 6 washerwomen. Eleven read- 
ers described themselves as gentlemen. 

After this analysis of his parishioners, Winsor was in no way sur- 
prised that novels accounted for three quarters of the circulation of 
books from the Lower Hall. It did not disturb him, for in 1869 he 
had observed: 

When Whately affirmed that the mind, like the stomach, did not 
thrive on concentrated food, but needed bulk of matter as well as 
nutriment, it was a proposition very closely touching this question. 
Most novels show some good purpose or give some fractional in- 
formation, which would be disregarded if concentrated into moral 
pith or educational precept. A hand-book of "Good Manners" or 
"Etiquette" will not make many gentlemen, and many novels have 
a far more effective influence to that end. "I often see," says Mr. 
Emerson, and no doubt truly, "traits of the Scotch and French 
novel in the courtesy and brilliance of young midshipmen, col- 
legians, and clerks." 

Similarly in 1871 Winsor wrote: 

I have in the past discussed the question of the large amount of 
fiction read in popular libraries. It is an inevitable experience, and 
the dreams of those hopeful for a change are in vain. The multi- 
tude not only crave fiction, something imaginative as a counter- 
poise to the realities, often stern, of life, but, in consequence of 


there being comparatively few trained imaginations, the style of 

fiction that is craved is oftenest of a low order. We may perhaps 
find a moral in the old fable of the thirsty starling, who got at the 
water in the urn by dropping pebbles into it one by one. The read- 
ing books which we may grow to despise, like the sendee of those 
valueless fragments, may imperceptibly raise the fountain of in- 
telligence to a higher level, and this no doubt sometimes happens; 
but the general results in libraries will not vary, since new readers 
begin at the level from which the old readers advanced, and thus 
keep up the relative debasement. 

Notwithstanding the cool realization that missionaries are never 
going to run out of heathen to convert, Winsor prepared a list of 
historical novels, poems and plays, which he hoped, entirely cor- 
rectly, "might become the stepping-stones to the less imaginative 
works upon the corresponding periods of the world's history." This 
Chronological Index to Historical Fiction, which appeared in 1871, 
was followed in 1873 by A Catalogue of Books belonging to the 
Lower Hall of the Central Department in the Classes of History, 
Biography and Travel . . . with Notes for Readers under subject- 
references, where Winsor embarked upon a wholly new theory of 
notes for the guidance of readers. Of this experiment he wrote 
retrospectively in his 1877 report: 

In 1873 the Library made an innovation in the bibliographical 
matter which was made an adjunct of its popular Catalogues. The 
new departure was a natural one, and followed as a matter of 
course in the development of the influence which it was the aim of 
the fathers of the Library to bestow upon the public. Mr. Everett, 
its first president, enunciated a sentiment that has never been 
lost sight of, when he claimed that its mission was to supplement 
the schools; and a happy embodiment of the idea has found shape 
of late in the phrase of 'The People's College." With the growth 
of any collection the ease of consultation naturally gives way to 
an indecision in the face of accumulated titles on every subject, 
and without some guide to a choice of books discouragement is 
likely to ensue from any haphazard selection out of many, for any 
particular purpose. A consideration of these difficulties ripened the 
plan. As preliminary the thought occurred of alluring the pastime 
reader, of whom all Libraries, in any degree popular, have a large 
following, by easy steps, to become a reader of better purpose. I 
am too much a believer in the general straightforwardness of in- 


grafted impulses ever violently to counteract them. I believe men 
can be led rather than pushed. The implanting in mankind of the 
story-telling faculty, and the enjoyment of it in others, was not an 
idle creation; and the imagination has done too much for amelio- 
ration of mankind not to deserve our acceptance of it, as a hand- 
maid of virtue and a promoter of intellectual advancement. This 
assistance was accordingly invoked in a list of historical fiction, 
which was prepared in chronological grouping under countries, as 
calculated to instigate a study by comparison, and lead the mind to 
history and biography by the inciting of the critical faculties. I 
have reason to believe the idea was not a futile one, from the in- 
terest manifested in the movement, and the avidity with which 
more than one edition of it was taken up. This was but a trial. 
The next step was the more serious one of endeavoring to direct 
the ductile perceptions of the less learned among readers. The 
effort was not to propound positively any course of reading, for 
there is danger always in dogmatism, however right its foundation 
may be. The notes which were appended to the subject-references 
in the History, Biography, and Travel Catalogue of the Lower 
Hall, in 1873, served to render the ordinary reader more able to 
choose to his liking when an undistinguishable mass of equivalent 
tides perplexed him. 

These pioneering efforts in bibliography for the masses inspired 
both praise and emulation here and abroad. Although attempting 
by such means to raise the standard of choice, Winsor, nevertheless, 
was admitting with complete frankness that "the great effort is to 
get people to read at all." When social workers found Public Li- 
brary books in tenements with broken windows, leaky roofs and no 
fires, Winsor reasoned, 

There can be no question if there is any mental amelioration or 
intellectual pastime to be enjoyed from a popular library by the 
lowest classes, that, if you confine your selection of fiction to Scott 
and Miss Edgeworth alone, as some good people would have you 
do, you debar the vast majority of such from becoming readers 
at all. If we exclude the positively vicious books, we have gone 
as far as we can without thwarting the desires of the great masses 
of readers, which are legitimate because arising from their condi- 
tions and wants. 

In the 1867 Examining Committee report, he had raised, for the 
first time in Boston, the idea of extending the usefulness of the li- 


brary by means of branches, patterned on the British model The 
revised City Ordinance of 1869 ^ad empowered the Trustees of 
the Public Library "from time to time to establish Branch Libraries 
of popular and useful books and periodicals in sections of the city 
distant from the main collection"; a plan that Winsor immediately 
hailed as "one which promises more effectually than any other to 
induce more people to read our books and to read more of them." 
East Boston was chosen as the part of the city least accessible to 
Boylston Street. Thus far i in 8 of the population of Boston proper 
used the library; in Roxbury the proportion was i out of 14, in 
South Boston i out of 1 6, while in East Boston only i in 26 took 
any advantage of the institution. Therefore in 1870 the Trustees 
requested an appropriation for establishing an East Boston Branch 
Library. Rooms on the second floor of the old Lyman schoolhouse 
were made available by the City; books selected from Lower Hall 
duplicates and specially purchased were supplemented by the col- 
lection of the Sumner Library Association, founded by the late Gen- 
eral William H. Sumner, and by 28 November 1870 the new Read- 
ing Room was open. Circulation began on 27 January 1871, and, 
the printing of the catalogue having been completed by early March, 
a formal dedication took place on 22 March, with an address by 
William W. Greenough, President of the Board of Trustees. 

A second branch, in hired quarters in the new Savings Bank 
Building in Broadway, South Boston, was dedicated with similar 
ceremonies on 16 May 1872. Just as the Sumner Library Association 
had turned over its books for the use of the East Boston Branch, 
the Mattapan Library Association having fallen on evil days 
generously made its collection of 1,470 volumes available for the 
new South Boston Branch. With books bought for the purpose, 
4,350 volumes were on the shelves in South Boston and ready for 
use on i May. Both the new branches duplicated many of the Lower 
Hall holdings, but cards issued in either of them were also valid for 
use in Boylston Street either in the Lower Hall or in Bates Hall. 

In Roxbury the task of establishing a branch library was made 
easier by a private benefaction organized under the will of Caleb 
Fellowes, a seafaring man out of Gloucester who had prospered in 
trade at Calcutta. Although he had only lived in Roxbury for a part 


of his life, Fellowes's will upon his death in Philadelphia on 8 
November 1852 was found to provide for the establishment of an 
Athenasum "within half a mile of the Rev. Mr, Putnam's meeting 
house in Roxbury," the building "to be as nearly as practicable like 
that of the Philadelphia Athenaeum, and to be used, as that institu- 
tion is, for literary and instructive purposes." As the will provided 
for reinvestment of income until an adequate capital sum had accu- 
mulated, no immediate steps were taken. In December 1871, the 
Trustees of the Fdlowes Athenaeum in Roxbury incorporated in 
1866 approached the Boston City Council with the proposal that 
they erect a building that would be rented by the City for a Roxbury 
Branch Library and operated jointly. As this plan would give the 
city a good building and several thousand dollars a year for books 
over and above the ordinary appropriation for a branch library, 
agreement was soon reached and construction begun during 1872 
at a site on Bartlett Street, Roxbury, near Shawmut Avenue. 

Justin Winsor seized the opportunity to work out with the archi- 
tects, N. J. Bradlee and W. J. Winslow, his ideas of a practical and 
convenient library. His chief objection to Bates Hall was that it was 

. . . unfortunately planned to produce the largest instead of the 
smallest average distance of books from the point of delivery, 
a defect which requires some sacrifice of supposed architectural 
claims to avoid, and which, in consequence of the inability of 
architects and building committees to recognize the paramount 
demands of administrative uses over the meretricious attractions 
of vistas of books and displayed alcoves, has disfigured some of 
the more important and recently erected library buildings in this 
State and at the West. 

The exact opposite was tried in the plan for the Fellowes Athenaeum, 
where an ample ground floor Delivery Room of 36 by 37 feet, easily 
accessible from the street, opened directly into a library stack, capa- 
ble of eventual shelving for 50,000 volumes, where no book would 
be above the reach of a normal arm. A Reading Room, 37 by 45 
feet, occupied the second floor. In 1871 Winsor had suggested es- 
tablishing a separate a J uven ^ e Library" in Boylston Street, with a 
view to "restoring the almost abandoned rights of adults" in the 
Lower Hall. Although such a plan was not included in the Fellowes 


Athenaeum, its Delivery Room was bisected by a barrier that con- 
fined adults and youths to separate areas. 

Most unhappily, after construction had begun, the Metropolitan 
Horse Railroad Company bought land completely surrounding the 
site of the Fellowes Athenaeum. The prospect of a library hemmed 
in by stables and perfumed with horse manure proved so intolerable 
that in August 1872 the Trustees of the Fellowes Athenaeum in- 
continently sold out to the Horse Railroad Company, and began 
their building a second time in more salubrious surroundings on 
Millmont Street. Although six months' time was lost by this contre- 
temps, the Roxbury Branch was in full working order by the time 
of its dedication on 9 July 1873. 

By the annexation to Boston in 1874 of Charlestown and Brigh- 
ton, existing libraries in those two communities became branches of 
the Boston Public Library system. The Charlestown Library, own- 
ing 15,788 volumes at the time of the merger, had, since its open- 
ing in 1862, been housed in two rooms on the second story of the 
City Hall. With the consolidation of city offices, the entire second 
floor became available, and, as Winsor observed in his 1875 report, 
the rooms of the Charlestown Branch, "ornamented as they are with 
the large paintings which were a legacy from the old city govern- 
ment of that district, now present one of the most conveniently 
planned and cheery-looking of our dependencies/' 

The Holton Public Library in Brighton, organized in 1864 
through a bequest of James Holton, took over the collection of the 
Brighton Library Association, which had, upon its foundation in 
1858, absorbed the Brighton Social Library of 1828. At the 1874 
annexation of the city, the Holton Library, of 11,037 volumes, was 
housed in crowded quarters, while an imposing building was under 
construction on Rockland Street. After some alterations in plan to 
make it more suitable for use in its new function, this building was 
completed and opened for use as a Brighton Branch of the Boston 
Public Library in August 1874, although the formal dedication was 
deferred until 29 October 1874, when Mr. Greenough delivered 
one of the addresses inevitably associated with such occasions. Thus 
the fourth and fifth branches were acquired, almost ready-made, by 
process of municipal accretion. 


The sixth, in Dorchester, was foreshadowed in 1874 appropria- 
tions, accommodated in the new city building at Field's Corner, and 
opened in January 1875. The presence of a local resident, Mr. 
William T. Adams better known under his pen name of Oliver 
Optic among the speakers at the 18 January 1875 dedication must 
have amused any of the audience who recalled President Green- 
ough's pious hope, uttered three years before at similar exercises in 
South Boston, that "boys and girls may come to desire something 
more profitable than Mayne Read and Oliver Optic." Mr. Adams 
gracefully expressed his pleasure that our public libraries were aware 
of the dangers of supplying "the young with books of doubtful tend- 
ency/' and, after reviewing his literary career from the Sunday- 
school onward, alleged that he had never "written a story which 
could excite the love, admiration and sympathy of the reader for 
an evil person, a bad character." 

I am willing to admit that I have sometimes been more "sensa- 
tional" than I now wish I had been, but I have never made a hero 
whose moral character, or whose lack of high aims and purposes 
could mislead the young reader. 

The next enlargement of the library system was by offshoots from 
the branches in the form of delivery stations. Such an experiment 
was tried in 1876 at Dorchester Lower Mills, where a friendly 
storekeeper offered space in which a library attendant might, during 
the late afternoon, issue library cards and take orders for and de- 
liver books that were shipped daily from the Dorchester Branch. 
A similar experiment in Jamaica Plain, tied in with the Roxbury 
Branch, proved so successful that by 1877 Winsor considered that 
the region would soon require a branch of its own. In addition, two 
or three hundred books were shipped each month to a sub-delivery 
station established at Deer Island for the benefit of the isolated city 
institutions in the harbor, while similar service was given to thirteen 
of the Fire Department engine-houses and to the fire-boat. In the 
spring of 1877 comparable arrangements were being planned for 
the Police Department and the Charlestown Navy Yard. 

The Trustees, in their 1874 report, had stated that "a book never 
accomplishes the object of its production unless in the hands of 


some one who wants it." With Justin Winsor's downright passion 
for pushing books into readers' hands, the library's circulation in- 
creased fantastically during the decade of his administration, as one 
can see by the figures offered in his 1877 report. 

DEPARTMENTS 1868 1869 1870 1871 1872 

9 mos. 
Central Library 

Bates Hall 33*874 42,95 47>597 65,205 50,251 

Lower Hall 141,853 175,772 163,366 231,110 254,246 
East Boston 

Branch 26,130 75,846 

Totals 175,727 218,677 210,963 322,445 380,343 

DEPARTMENTS 1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 

Central Library 

Bates Hall 59,264 72,313 80,737 II 4>3 2 9 141,618 

Lower Hall 238,057 253,097 272,834 348,842 405,732 
East Boston 

Branch 68,212 81,091 85,548 90,987 102,627 

South Boston 

Branch 102,322 108,566 112,525 115,530 135,179 


Branch 67,342 89,539 101,297 146,829 


Branch 33>39* 79>375 85,815 106,816 


Branch 9,642 21,842 24,805 29,792 


Branch 16,017 66,016 7*>979 

Totals 467,855 625,442 758,417 947,621 1,140,572 

The most casual glance at these figures will show the instantane- 
ous success of the branches. It will also disprove fears felt that Bos- 
ton was hazarding the chances of making the Central Library an im- 
portant one by dissipating its resources among lesser projects, for 
against a circulation of 175,727 books in 1868, the number of books 
issued from Boylston Street alone had in 1877 increased more than 
three-fold to 547,350, although six branches were in active opera- 
tion. Notwithstanding the good that the branches had accomplished 


in many directions, they had clearly done nothing to relieve the 
perennial problem of congestion in the Lower Hall Delivery Room. 
Winsor's ingenuity was constantly taxed to make the Boylston 
Street library habitable under the greatly increased use and growth. 
No one liked the building, except possibly Robert C. Winthrop or 
some other survivor of the commission that had built it; certainly no 
one who attempted to work in it had a good word to say on its be- 
half. In 1869 the Trustees stated publicly their unwillingness to 
recommend any further expenditures for building on that site be- 
cause of the want of light and air. Change was considered so inevit- 
able that in 1870 they stated that "when the Library is removed, it 
should go to a site where it may remain for the future without dis- 
turbance of light and air." A scheme of moving Bates Hall to another 
location, and making the entire building available for popular use 
was considered and rejected by 1 87 1 . As books were coming in at an 
alarming rate, and as any move would require large expenditure and 
the passage of several years, Winsor was constantly devising means 
to make do in Boylston Street. In 1870 he rigged rooms in the south- 
east basement to shelve newspapers and duplicates. The following 
year he installed in parts of Bates Hall deep drawers that permitted 
three or four banks of books to be shelved, one behind the other, 
while in 1872 more extensive changes were made. Although observ- 
ing of the building that "Its defects are radical and not to be reme- 
died/' Winsor reported that "work has been done, and is now In 
progress, which will much Improve it for administrative uses." A 
subdivision of Bates Hall alcoves, completed In the autumn of 1872, 
produced space for an additional hundred thousand volumes, while 
the rebuilding of the gallery level of the Lower Hall furnished two 
large and six small rooms for staff use. Additional adjacent land 
was purchased in 1872, and as Winsor reported in that year, "these 
changes, which strongly indicate the abiding of the Central Library 
in its present site, must also lead to others at a not very distant fu- 
ture," the great Boston fire of 9 November set everyone to worrying 
about the future of the institution in so crowded an area. A stand- 
pipe to provide water was installed in the southeastern tower at the 
back of the building in 1874; hoses were stowed on each floor, and 
iron shutters added. In the same year a wing was run out from the 


southwest angle of the rear of the building that, on its completion 
in the spring of 1875, furnished decent accommodation for the 
Patent Collection, the Catalogue Department, certain special li- 
braries, and increased working room for the rapidly growing staff. 
The construction of still another wing would have been requested 
in 1876, had it not been for the nationwide financial depression, 
which limited any improvements to the addition of a somewhat dubi- 
ous wooden extension covered with sheet iron, of 45 by 1 6 feet, 
to the rear of Bates Hall. This contrivance, although frowned upon 
by the Examining Committee, at least gave extra room for students 
below, and space for the order department above. In spite of these 
expedients, the Lower Hall was still entirely unsuited to the in- 
creased volume of business. Seats in the Reading Room were insuffi- 
cient; the Delivery Room was overcrowded; ventilation was atro- 
cious, and the water-closets inadequate for the staff, to say nothing 
of readers. On this point the 1876 Examining Committee spoke with 

Every Library of the first class in Europe affords similar provision 
for the wants of its frequenters. A greater obligation than exists in 
the Old World lies upon the authorities of our city to maintain 
such accommodations; for, in European cities, public structures, 
conveniently situated, and where recently built, unobtrusive and 
neat in appearance, abound for the use of all classes. Here, in 
New England, so strong are the fetters of a past provincialism, 
that the reader at the Library, if obliged to leave the building, 
hardly knows where to turn for relief. 

The inadequacies of the building were emphasized not only by 
increased use, but by the phenomenal growth of the library's hold- 
ings. When Winsor became Superintendent in 1868, the Boylston 
Street building contained 144,000 volumes. In May 1877 the count 
was 242,885, divided between 35,478 in the Lower Hall and 208,- 
411 in Bates Hall. With 69,125 books in the branches, the total 
holdings of the library system amounted to 312,010. Although the 
emphasis had been upon popular reading, the scholarly collections 
had not been forgotten during this decade. In 1869 Winsor had 
explained that the library's purchase of new books depended partly 
upon specific orders and partly upon the discretionary selection of 


foreign agents in London, Paris and Leipzig, who shipped books 
once or twice a month, and a Florentine agent who forwarded an 
annual consignment. "Of American publications, our agents have 
orders to send for our inspection everything published, and half our 
additions in new books bear American imprints." In bibliography, 
literary history and bibliothecal science Winsor aimed to buy nearly 
everything of any value; in American history he aimed to be 

It seems desirable that every library which can spare from its re- 
sources the requisite means should select some subject, strength 
in which will give them character and a value beyond their imme- 
diate dependencies. The free library of Birmingham very oppor- 
tunely seized the occasion of the recent Shakespeare Tercentenary 
to found a special Shakespearian library as a part of their general 
collection . . . Our own collection of Shakespeares and works 
illustrative of him is very good; but we have not thought of giving 
it anything like completeness. An effort has been made during the 
year to gather what was possible of the different translations of 
Hamlet, and as an indicative part of the subjects, it may be worth 
our while to keep up the search. 

In the same year, the Examining Committee had urged the dou- 
bling of the trust funds for books, which stood at $96,000, so that 
in times of political and financial crisis the library might avail itself 
of "opportunities, which now and then occur, of purchasing special 
collections of books which money itself is impotent, in ordinary 
times, to obtain." This recommendation had its inspiration, no 
doubt, in the negotiations currently under way with Mrs. Thomas P. 
Barton of New York for the purchase of her late husband's library, 
which included among the works of English and foreign dramatists 
a remarkable series of Shakespeare folios and quartos. Although 
valued at $60,000, the Barton Library was offered for $45,000, with 
the stipulation that the books should be shelved together as a collec- 
tion, and should not be allowed to circulate. Negotiations broke 
down in January 1870 for want of funds, but Mrs. Barton's desire 
to have her husband's books permanently preserved in Bates Hall 
was so strong that she subsequently made concessions in price, 
which made their purchase possible in May 1873 f r $34>ooo, This 


was the first occasion upon which a sizable appropriation of public 
funds had been spent upon rare, rather than currently useful, books, 
for the majority of such additions had been received by gift. 

George Ticknor's generosity in enlarging the scholarly holdings 
of the library has been previously noted. In addition to the books 
that he had given in 1860, he had in October 1862 presented a col- 
lection that his friend, William H. Prescott, had assembled with a 
view never carried out to writing a life of Moliere. Although 
with advancing years he had withdrawn from the Board of Trus- 
tees, George Ticknor's interest in the library that he had helped to 
found never flagged. Upon his death, on 26 January 1871, it was 
learned that his magnificent collection of Spanish and Portuguese 
literature had been bequeathed to the Public Library, with a fund 
of four thousand dollars for future purchases in the field. Altogether 
his gifts totalled 8,201 volumes and 1,265 pamphlets. Thus Tick- 
nor's memory has been kept green, not only by the marble portrait 
bust by Martin Millmore, given by several gentlemen of Boston in 
1868, but through the much loved books that he had used to such 
admirable purpose in the preparation of his History of Spanish Lit- 

Another major gift that had opened broad horizons was the collec- 
tion of some thousands of engravings, assembled by Cardinal Tosti, 
that was purchased in Rome in 1869 for the library by Thomas G. 
Appleton, one of the original Trustees. In 1872 Gardner Brewer 
the donor to Boston Common of the bronze fountain by Lienard, 
the grace of whose water-splashed figures of Neptune, Amphitrite, 
Acis, and Galatea is too seldom appreciated by the shoppers emerg- 
ing from the Park Street Subway presented the library with a 
Greuze portrait of Franklin, which formed an admirable counter- 
part to the Duplessis likeness earlier received from Edward Brooks. 
The 1865 Examining Committee, under the chairmanship of 
Henry L Bowditch, had taken a dimly austere view of such acqui- 
sitions, considering it 

... as wholly inappropriate to the Reading Room of any Library 
that is habitually used by students for consultation and the read- 
ing of books, that any works of pictorial or plastic art should be 
placed therein. Beautiful in themselves, they excite nay, seem 


to demand, conversation and criticism. Conversation, save what 
is absolutely necessary in the obtaining of books, is, of course, 
wholly inadmissible. 

One of the same committee had spent nearly an hour in Bates 
Hall, "and all the while a gentle 'tete-a-tete' was being carried on 
by a young couple, who found the luxurious chairs a pleasant spot 
in which to pass an agreeable hour." This was quite in the tradition 
of the Boston Athenaeum, in whose secluded upper rooms various 
nineteenth century Bostonians did their courting and became en- 
gaged, but it greatly distressed the 1865 Examining Committee. 
Fortunately that committee's views upon the unsuitability of works 
of art in libraries were not generally shared, and the Public Library 
again like the Athenaeum developed a pleasant receptivity to 
such offers as that of the gold medal commemorating the evacuation 
of Boston on 17 March 1776, presented to General Washington by 
Congress, and given to the library on the hundredth anniversary by 
fifty citizens of Boston. Such gifts, in Winsor's day, were appreci- 
ated as amenities, even if they did, now and then, "excite con- 

To keep ahead of the extraordinary expansion of books and read- 
ers during the 1867-1877 decade, quick thinking and sound im- 
provisation were required. With everything happening at once, there 
were no established precedents to fall back upon. It was assumed in 
the sixties, for example, that libraries had to close once a year for 
examination of the shelves. This meant not only that all books had 
to be recalled from borrowers at one time, but that readers were 
entirely debarred from the library during the fortnight or month 
required for the location, cleaning and checking of every book. It 
was a lot of work for the staff, and a nuisance to the readers, yet 
how otherwise could one tell what had been lost or stolen during 
the year? When the Boylston Street library was first opened, only 
eleven days had been required for the task, but the building was 
then new and the shelves barely filled. Winsor's 1867 Examining 
Committee, in considering the question "Is the Library open as 
much as possible?", observed that with 136,000 volumes, one would 
be fortunate to keep the work within a month. The 1868 committee 
questioned the whole practice, suggesting that the same result might 


be accomplished without closing by dividing the library into twelve 
sections, one of which would be examined each month by a person 
who made that his sole occupation. 

The principal objection to this plan is the expense, which would 
be greater than it now is, as it would be necessary to have one or 
two persons in each Hall, in addition to the present force. Yet if 
the public can be better served in this way, their convenience 
should be considered rather than the cost, if it be moderate. 

Winsor, although not without misgivings, agreed that the expense 
would be the chief disadvantage. It was successfully attempted, for 
the first time in any great library, during 1869, and worked without 
a hitch. Winsor's method was to establish a separate Shelf Depart- 
ment, manned by a Custodian with three assistants. These new 
workers went from shelf to shelf each morning, comparing the books 
in situ with the shelf -list and noting missing volumes. The numbers 
of the latter were then checked against borrowers' charge slips and 
bindery schedules. Any not accounted for in that way were set down 
as missing, although all but 19 books in Bates Hall and 70 in the 
Lower Hall were subsequently found to have been misplaced in 
alcoves that were examined later. The system worked so well that in 
1870 it was permanently adopted. 

The establishment of a Shelf Department suggested to Winsor 
the wisdom of more specific assignment of duties than had previ- 
ously been made. In Jewett's day, Edward Capen although con- 
tinuing to bear the designation of Librarian, as he had since 1852 
was actually the functionary responsible for the Lower Hall. The 
unfortunate Professor William E. Jillson, during summer vacations 
from Brown University and Columbia College, Washington, where 
he taught modern languages, had assisted Jewett in preparing the 
Bates Hall Catalogue, but it was only in October 1865 that he joined 
the library staff on a full-time basis. Although dignified only with 
the vague designation General Assistant, he was described as the 
second officer of the institution. It was such vagueness that doubt- 
less led the 1865 Examining Committee to urge a classification of 
the duties and responsibilities of all employees. In a roster of the 
library staff, published for the first time as Appendix xx to Winsor's 


1869 Deport, Jillson's successor, William A. Wheeler, appears both 
as Assistant Superintendent and Chief of the Catalogue Department. 
A total staff of 43 consisted of the Superintendent, an Accountant, 
a Catalogue Department of 10, a Shelf Department of 4, a Bates 
Hall Circulating Department of 6, a Lower Hall Circulating De- 
partment of 1 6, a Janitorial Department of 2, and a Binding De- 
partment of 3. None were lavishly paid, for the total salary expendi- 
ture was under twenty-five thousand dollars. In November 1869 
James L. Whitney joined the Catalogue Department as Wheeler's 
Deputy, and by 1872 had become in addition Winsor's second mate, 
with the title of Principal Assistant. Wheeler's early death from 
typhoid pneumonia on 28 October 1874, in his forty-first year, de- 
prived Winsor of a valued "coadjutor and friend/' for Wheeler's 
work in preparing the Prince and Ticknor catalogues, but more 
particularly his efforts upon the printed public card catalogue of 
the entire library begun in 1872 had been of a high order. Upon 
Whitney's promotion to Wheeler's dual posts, he was succeeded by 
the Reverend James M. Hubbard, while Frederic B. Perkins for- 
merly an editor of the New York Tribune and of Old and New 
assumed the duties of third mate, with the title of Office Secretary 
and sub-executive officer. 

A separate Ordering and Receiving Department is first mentioned 
in the 1873 report, while by May 1875 there were 116 employees, 
47 in the branches and 67 In the Central Library. In May 1877 the 
number had risen to 55 In the branches and 84 in the Boylston 
building. The staff was truly of the Superintendent's choice and 
training, for although William E. Ford, the Chief Janitor, had set- 
tled in the basement of the Boylston Street library on its opening 
in 1858, less than ten of the 139 antedated Winsor's stretch at the 
helm. The President of the Trustees, William W. Greenough, had, 
it was true, walked with the patriarchs and founders, for he had 
been elected to the board in 1856, but the next in point of service, 
Weston Lewis, had only become a Trustee with Winsor in 1867, 

The library had grown enormously. Thanks to Winsor's genius 
for organization and administration It was efficiently ran, for he 
always kept his eye on the shape of the forest. In this vein he once 
remarked to Samuel Swett Green of the Worcester library that, 


while he appreciated very highly the services of his accomplished 
assistants Wheeler, Perkins, and Whitney 

... he considered it a failing in them all that he could not in- 
duce any one of them to slur work; that is, he wished perspective 
to be used in doing work and thought that with limited time and 
resources it is best to omit certain details of work or postpone them 
for the sake of having energy to employ in effecting the higher 
objects for which an institution exists. 

Winsor's treatment of the problem of catalogues strikingly illus- 
trates this view. Jewett's two printed volumes of Bates Hall cata- 
logues, issued in 1861 and 1866, were received "as a contribution 
to the facilities for acquiring knowledge through the use of large 
libraries, such as has not been afforded elsewhere," but, admirable 
as they were, the rapid growth of the library rendered them more 
obsolete every week. In October 1867 Jewett issued, in similar 
format, a 'Bulletin of new books; designed for quarterly appearance, 
to give readers prompt notice of what they would not otherwise dis- 
cover without fishing through an interleaved copy of the printed 
catalogue. Winsor carried on the "Bulletin, not only enlarging it, but 
making it a vehicle of communication with readers by including 
notes, comments, and essays. He attempted to produce a third vol- 
ume of the Bates Hall catalogue, but finally in 1871 threw up the 
sponge and turned instead to a public card, catalogue. By organizing 
the flow of work, and using mechanical means of duplicating en- 
tries, twenty rather than five or six thousand volumes a year passed 
through the Catalogue Department. 

Winsor looked beyond parish boundaries where the convenience 
of the reader and the welfare of the library were concerned. In an 
era when pride of possession lent glamour to bulky accessions, and 
many institutions shared the small boy's view of "You stay on your 
side of the fence," it is refreshing to read in his 1876 report: 

The work upon the newspaper catalogue has been kept up to 
date, and, as subsidiary helps, a record has been made of files 
which are preserved in the Libraries of the Athenaeum and of the 
Historical Society, partly to guide the inquiries of persons seeking 
beyond what we have, and partly to prevent increasing our col- 
lection by the purchase of bulky accessions, when other accessible 
libraries can supply what is wanted. 


Ink was first allowed to be used in Bates Hall in 1869. The hour 
for opening that hall was in the same year pushed back from ten 
o'clock to nine, to conform with the rest of the library, while its 
closing formerly vaguely approximating sunset was fixed at six 
o'clock in winter and seven in summer. When in 1873 the Lower 
Hall Delivery Room closing hour was pushed forward from eight to 
nine o'clock, the quitting time for attendants, which had formerly 
varied from six to eight, was set uniformly at seven o'clock and a 
special force organized for evening service. 

Sunday opening had long been a bone of contention that inspired 
antagonism and pamphleteering. The issue had been publicly de- 
bated in 1859, 1864 and 1867, the latter year producing a particu- 
lar ludicrous effort entitled Protest or Remonstrance of M. Field 
Fowler against opening the doors of the Public Library, Boston, on 
the Lord's Day. Although stoutly refuted by Charles M. Ellis in his 
Argument for Opening the Reading Room of the Public Library of 
the City of Boston on Sunday Afternoons, Mr. Fowler remained un- 
convinced, and as late as 1872, enraged by the suggestion that 
horsecars would take the pious to church, treated Boston readers 
to a further statement of his views in an Essay on the Sunday Li- 
brary and the Horse Car Questions. Also in 1872 the Reverend 
Henry Ward Beecher's New York pamphlet with the rhetorical title 
Should the Public Libraries be opened on Sunday? resoundingly 
answered, "Yes." The experiment of opening the Periodical Reading 
Room on Sundays from two to nine o'clock was first tried on 9 Feb- 
ruary 1873. Attendance was nothing startling, but Winsor noted 
with pleasure "that a large proportion of the Sunday visitors are not 
such as are seen in the rooms on week-days." So far as he was con- 
cerned libraries should be open when people will come to them 
"all night, if they will come all night, in the evening certainly, and 
on Sunday by all means." 

One of Winsor's first acts was to move the bindery out of Bates 
Hall alcoves into basement quarters where noise was of no account. 
Another was to arrange that all foreign books be received bound 
rather than in wrappers. Although work for the Lower Hall and the 
binding of periodicals and newspapers was divided between two out- 
side firms, the basement bindery attended to Bates Hall books, 


mounted maps, made portfolios and pamphlet cases, and generally 
proved a convenience and an economy. It also helped staff morale, 
for Winsor would send there as an apprentice an occasional page 
boy who had outgrown his job but lacked the education that would 
fit him for other library duties. 

Winsor's imagination flashed from one point of the compass to an- 
other with incredible speed. At one moment he is investigating 
buckram as a binding material that will resist gas-lighted and heated 

The article has never been introduced into this country, but I 
have brought it to the attention of importers of Scotch linens, who 
will introduce it at once. 

At another he has the simple inspiration of making readers fill out 
their own charge slips, thus enabling the library "to deliver nine or 
ten thousand volumes a day with much less confusion and more 
expedition than fifteen hundred volumes were delivered ten years 
ago." Hard on the heels of Alexander Graham Bell, he was, in 1877, 
speculating on the likelihood of 

. . . greater favor being accorded to the Branch system by de- 
vices for increasing the promptitude of the business by means of 
telegraphic wires for the transmission of messages, and not un- 
likely with telephonic attachments. 

But with all this went hard-headed Duxbury economy. The library 
was beyond question costing money. The budget for 1858 was 
$19,890; in 1867 it was $52,658 and in 1877 $117,800. Yet, as 
Winsor pointed out: 

If the annual expenditure be divided by the amount of circula- 
tion, it will show that the measure of the Library's usefulness, as 
indicated by such reckoning of die cost of issue per volume, has 
been reduced from twenty-five cents in 1867 to less than ten 
cents in 1877. 

It is small wonder that Winsor J s busy days were interrupted by 
requests for advice from other institutions, here, there and every- 
where. The first issue of The American Library Journal (30 Sep- 
tember 1876) bears at the mast-head the quotation: 


We have no schools of bibliographical and bibliothecal training 
whose graduates can guide the formation of, and assume manage- 
ment within, the fast increasing libraries of our country; and the 
demand may perhaps never warrant their establishment; but every 
library with a fair experience can afford inestimable instruction 
to another in its novitiate; and there have been no duties of my 
office to which I have given more hearty attention than those that 
have led to the granting of what we could from our experience to 
the representatives of other libraries, whether coming with in- 
quiries fitting a collection as large as Cincinnati is to establish, or 
merely seeking such matters as concern the establishment of a 
village library. 


The article that opens the issue, "A Word to Starters of Libraries" 
one of the happiest examples of Winsor's combination of wisdom 
and humor begins: 

Every well-established librarian occasionally or even frequently 
receives letters of which the following is a fair sample : 


"Dear Sir: The Honorable Hezekiah Jones, of our town, has 
donated [by the way, given has dropped out of the diction- 
ary with such people] $ to found a library in this 

his native place, and we wish the library to reflect honor on 
him and credit on Punkeyville. Accordingly we would be 
obliged for any information you can give to enable us to es- 
tablish this trust on a correct basis. 

"Very respectfully, 
"For the Committee, 


"P.S. I hope you will send us your catalogues, your charter, 
and your rules." 

Mr. Brown is very likely an estimable person, whom the bene- 
factor has designated as suitable for the head of the trust. Per- 
haps he is a clergyman, and if you should ask him to tell you the 
way in which to run a church and take care of a parish, he would 
remind you that, if it were not for writing the next Sunday's ser- 
mon, he might find time to enlighten you. Perhaps he is a physi- 
cian, beloved of the people, and trusted above all by the Honora- 
ble Mr. Jones; but if you asked him something about the theory 


and practice of medicine, he would refer you to the journals of his 
profession or recommend a course of study in the schools . . . 

It was in no way surprising that when the American Library Asso- 
ciation was organized at Philadelphia in October 1876, Justin 
Winsor should be elected its President. Nor was he any less appre- 
ciated at home, for in the 1877 Trustees' report in reviewing the 

first quarter century of the Boston Public Library President Green- 
ough wrote: 

Of the obligations of the Library to his [Jewett's] successor, the 
present Superintendent, the Trustees cannot speak too strongly. 
The Library has increased since his appointment, with the addi- 
tion of the six branches, to the position of the largest collection on 
the continent, now numbering 312,000 volumes, and having in 
nine years increased its circulation more than five-fold, having 
distributed and placed in the hands of readers during the past 
year 1,140,000 volumes. The requirements of the office have been 
most completely filled, but at the expense of the most unremitting 
labor at the Library and at home, and beyond human strength to 
sustain for a series of years. The scholastic and administrative de- 
mands of this great institution, with its six branches, have not only 
been fully met, but the methods of public contact and usefulness 
have been simplified, as well as extended and improved. The cata- 
logue, under his direction, has received a new value, having 
become not only a key to the books, but a manual for readers and 
scholars. It is proper to say that the class lists printed for the 
Boston Public Library have given it a reputation and a following 
both in America and in Europe, most flattering to a city, now more 
extensively known throughout the world by this than by any others 
of its institutions. 

Here for once was the right man in the right place at the right 
time. The Boston Public Library had crowded on sail, but, with 
Winsor at the helm, there seemed no doubt of a safe voyage, and 
strong likelihood of maintaining the markedly advanced position 
that had come from an early start and favoring winds. 


The fullest treatment of Winsor is in Joseph A. Borome's 1950 

Columbia University Ph.D. dissertation, The Life and Letters of 


Justin Winsor, which is available on microfilm as Publication 1834 
of University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan. See also the re- 
marks on the death of Justin Winsor at the November 1897 meeting 
of the Massachusetts Historical Society by Charles W. Eliot and 
others, and Horace E. Scudder's memoir of him in Proceedings of 
the Massachusetts Historical Society, second series, XII (1897 
1899), 3044, 457-482. Winsor's article "The Boston Public Li- 
brary 3 ' in Scribner's Monthly for December 1871, pp. 150-156, is 
illustrated with views of the interior of the Boylston Street library. 
The crowded Lower Hall is well described in Albert G. Webster's 
article, "The Boston Public Library/' Appleton's Journal of Litera- 
ture, Science and Art y VI (1871), 629-631. 


In the Doldrums 

It is unfortunate that, just as we are congratulat- 
ing ourselves on the great strides of our public 
library system as a factor in social and political 
growth, there comes this blow in the face from 


TWENTY-FIVE years had produced wonders. In that short time 
the Boston Public Library had been transformed from a reasoned 
hope of George Ticknor and Edward Everett to the first library of 
the United States. Moreover, it was the first not only in size and 
use, but in imagination and leadership. It is not hard to attribute 
this success to first-rate and original minds, exploring unhampered, 
with generous support, fresh and uncharted territory. Robert Cow- 
tan, who had recently published his Memories of the British Mu- 
seum, wrote Justin Winsor on 26 January 1872, acknowledging 
receipt of the latest Boston cataloguing experiments, with the com- 

All the reforms that have taken place in our library have been 
effected by slow and hardly fought battles against old customs and 
precedents, and it wants a Panizzi now and then to gather up all 
the improvements that crop up and so present them to the powers 
that be that they must be adopted. You have no old usages to com- 
bat with and can therefore adopt the best plans at once, and they 
appear to have worked so admirably that I beg to offer you my 
humble but most hearty congratulations. 

Notwithstanding the generosity of Joshua Bates and other private 
benefactors, the people of Boston, acting through their City Govern- 


ment, footed the bill, for in 1877 the library trust funds of $105,- 
335.13 produced an income of only $6,300, while the total annual 
expenditures reach $124,396.86. The City Council had been ex- 
traordinarily generous, which was not surprising when the mayors 
had included such genuine friends of the library as Josiah Quincy, 
Jr., John P. Bigelow, Dr. N. B. Shurtleff and Henry L. Pierce, who 
had in 1873 made a personal gift of $5,000 to the book funds. Al- 
though the library was booming in the seventies, one could not say 
as much of city finances in general. As the panic of 1873 had been 
disastrous not only to speculators but to more sober owners of Bos- 
ton real estate, there was, in the years immediately following, a 
demand not only for reduction in real estate assessments but in 
municipal expenses. Frederick O. Prince, though without previous 
political experience, was elected mayor in December 1876 on a 
retrenchment platform, and during the winter the City Council 
began injudicious tinkering with the minutiae of the library budget 
which led to disaster. 

Although the 1858 ordinance had left the election and salary of 
the Superintendent in the hands of the City Council, the choice of 
all other library employees and the fixing of their pay had been the 
responsibility of the Trustees. An attempt to defeat Jewetfs re- 
election as Superintendent because somebody disliked his politics 
had led, in 1865, to a revision of the ordinance that gave the Trus- 
tees the right to appoint the Superintendent, although the deter- 
mination of his salary remained with the City Council. So matters 
proceeded until the winter of 1876-1877, when the Council sud- 
denly adopted an order regulating the salaries of more than thirty 
officers of the library. No one questioned the right of the City 
Council to reduce the total appropriation for the library; that was 
a matter of municipal policy and finance. But both the Trustees 
and the 1877 Examining Committee very much questioned the be- 
havior of the City Council in meddling, without adequate knowl- 
edge, in the detailed use of the appropriations, particularly when 
their Intervention was so capricious and ignorant that, under guise 
of general reduction, salaries, in two instances, instead of being 
lowered, were actually raised. Such political intervention upset 
commitments made In good faith by the Trustees, and set at nought 


an orderly system of "fixing the salaries at even grade when the 
duties were first assumed, and raising them as length of service and 
qualification justified/' Moreover the City Council rewarded Justin 
Winsor's years of unremitting and fruitful effort by docking his pay 
as well. 

This incident is the one sour note in the 1 877 report, which other- 
wise records the inexorable progress of the library during its first 
quarter century. The Examining Committee, while making it abun- 
dantly clear that they did so without Winsor's knowledge, or with- 
out a hint from him, spoke their mind forcibly upon this injustice. 

The committee cannot praise too highly the administration of the 

Library in all its details. The credit of this redounds to the honor 
of the city and its citizens, but is really due to the distinguished 
ability and untiring zeal of the Librarian. Mr. Winsor has won for 
himself, for the Library, and for the city of Boston, the foremost 
place in the management of free public Libraries. His principles 
and methods are watched in all parts of the civilized world, and 
accepted as models for imitation. His position as a skilful, ener- 
getic, and successful library administrator, if not actually the first 
in the world, is certainly second to none. The aggregate value of 
the property under his charge is more than a million dollars; the 
force employed numbers nearly a hundred and forty individuals. 
The influence which his measures exert upon the education and 
future welfare of the citizens is beyond computation. The charac- 
ter and attainments requisite in the incumbent of such a post are 
in no wise inferior to those sought for in the President of Harvard 
University or of any great institution of learning. President Eliot 
receives what is equivalent, it is believed, to $6,000 a year. The 
Mayor, Solicitor, Auditor, and Treasurer of this city receive 
$5,000 annually; the City Engineer, $4,500; the City Clerk and 
the City Collector, $4,000. In marked contrast to these salaries 
stands that of the Superintendent of the Public Library, this year 
reduced from $3, 600 to $3,000, which does not exceed that of a 
well-paid assistant or chief clerk. This salary does not correspond 
to the duties and responsibilities of the position, to the remarkable 
ability and high professional standing of the present incumbent, 
or to the salaries assigned to other officers of similar grade by the 
City of Boston. The committee is unanimously of opinion that this 
salary is discreditably small, and should be made equal to those 
given to the heads of the other higher departments of the public 


Although undated, this report was apparently completed at the be- 
ginning of May 1877. 

In the middle of the same month, John Langdon Sibley, the 
veteran Librarian of Harvard University, notified President Eliot 
that he wished, after thirty-six years' service, to retire. Mr. Eliot 
promptly offered the post to Justin Winsor, giving him until 25 June 
to reach a decision. The prospect was attractive, for the Harvard 
post carried the rank of professor, with a $4,000 salary and the long 
academic summer vacation. Moreover it was free from the strife of 
political maneuvering. This was especially tempting, for, as Hor- 
ace E. Scudder said of Winsor, 

. . . with his generous nature he was keenly sensitive to any act 
of meanness; he has come once or twice into collision with mem- 
bers of the city government when he was administering the li- 
brary, and he had a profound distrust of municipal politics as he 
saw it in operation. 

Nevertheless Winsor was loath to consider President Eliot's offer. 
He was heart and soul in his work. He had, through two-fifths of 
its life and more than one-fifth of his own, guided the Boston Public 
Library to a position of unique eminence, and he sincerely believed 
that it had a great future. President Greenough, seeing that the wolf 
was at the door, thought it well that the city authorities should have 
an opportunity either to repent or to f< be allowed to place themselves 
deliberately in the wrong." The Trustees of the Public Library 
therefore hit upon a petition to the City Council for authority to 
make a five year contract with Winsor, effective retroactively to i 
May 1877 the date of the salary cut at a salary not exceeding 
$4,500. Because of this Greenough asked Eliot to grant Winsor an 
extension of time for his decision, so that he might learn the result 
of the petition before making an irrevocable choice, and the Harvard 
Corporation allowed him until 7 July. 

On 2 July, when the Trustees' petition was considered by the 
Board of Aldermen, Charles Burnham, Chairman of the Joint Li- 
brary Committee, praised Winsor and his accomplishments and 
asked that the order be passed, pointing out that Winsor only desired 
permanency of tenure. Alderman Hugh O'Brien, speaking as if 
rubbish collection were under discussion, protested that the order 


would create a bad precedent and that other department heads and 
superintendents would soon be in looking for a raise. Winsor had 
been educated on the job, and it was time to give another man a 
chance. Alderman O'Brien was so inexpert a prophet as to allege 
that there were "hundreds of citizens who could fill that place after 
a few weeks' experience with just as much ability as Mr. Winsor." 
Moreover, the library was costing more than its founders ever 
dreamed of; enough had already been spent on it. He was, of course, 
proud of it, but all such institutions had to be kept "down to an 
economical mark." Although Alderman Francis Thompson vigor- 
ously combatted these views, and Alderman John T. Clark testified 
to the need of having an experienced Superintendent of Winsor's 
ability, Alderman Richard Robinson took the opposite view. Robin- 
son spoke upon principle rather than knowledge of the circumstances 
when he said: 

I never was in the Public Library but once. I have a library of my 
own, and do not need the Public Library. But what particular 
qualifications are required in cataloguing books I am not able to 
see. I have always been of the opinion that when a person became 
so valuable to the city or a corporation that they could not get 
along without him, the sooner that man left the corporation the 
better for it. 

Nevertheless, the order increasing Winsor's salary to $4,500, but 
without the five-year provision, was passed by a vote of 10 in favor 
to O'Brien and Robinson in opposition. On 5 July this action was 
unanimously approved by the Common Council, and Winsor wrote 
President Eliot declining the Harvard post. In notifying William W. 
Greenough on the seventh of his decision to remain with the Public 
Library, Winsor wrote: 

I feel content with the assurances which are given to me that not 
only the salary of my office is fixed with the solemnity if not with 
the legal surroundings of the faith of the City; but that the friends 
of the library will make strenuous efforts to secure, next winter, 
from the State Legislature, such provisions by enactment as will 
give the library a stability which it can never have with the insta- 
bilities of a municipal council. 

Thus it seemed that, through Greenough's prompt action, the Pub- 
lic Library was to have Winsor at the helm during its second quarter 


century. Alas for such hopes, it was soon learned that, by an amend- 
ment of which the official record made no report, Winsor s salary 
was to be increased from the passage of the order, rather than from 
i May 1877, This bit of pettiness so disturbed Winsor that, on the 
tenth, he wrote Greenough : 

The variation is small, but it has destroyed my confidence. You 
tell me that in your opinion it was an accident; but as you are 
aware our experience is that we can only judge of the purpose of 
that body by the acts it does. 

I am therefore under the necessity of severing my connection with 
the library. 

On 1 1 July Winsor wrote President Eliot accepting the Harvard 

When it was learned that Justin Winsor would take up his duties 
in Cambridge on i September, there was public consternation. Bos- 
ton newspapers invited the dissident aldermen to produce the names 
of the numerous candidates who were so well qualified to fill the 
post made vacant by the resignation. The American Library Journal, 
in its 31 July 1877 editorial, thus summed up general opinion: 

It is unfortunate that, just as we are congratulating ourselves 
on the great strides of our public library system as a factor in so- 
cial and political growth . . , there comes this blow in the face 
from Boston . . , The Public Library, we had said to ourselves, 
was the one thing in Boston which Boston would not permit to be 
touched, and Boston was the one city in which institutions were 
intrenched behind intelligence. Yet in the City Council of Boston 
itself we hear the very same voice which is making itself heard in 
other parts of the country through the rapine and bloodshed of the 
railroad strikes the voice which insists that intelligence is worth 
no more than ignorance, and that every man must be ranked on 
an equality with the lowest and this voice is attacking that best 
gift of the people to itself, the public library. This is of dreadful 
significance, but it presents a fresh motive to the friends of public 
libraries, in the fact that they furnish the most effective weapons 
against the demagogic ignorance that glorifies ignorance and chal- 
lenges civilization. Light is always the one cure for darkness, and 
every book that the public library circulates helps to make Alder- 


man O'Brien and railroad rioters impossible. The measure pro- 
posed for the safety of public libraries during the present malad- 
ministration of our cities is their incorporation, by the state 
legislature, out of the reach of city demagogism. 

It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and the consola- 
tion to the friends of library development in the present case is, 
first, that Mr. Winsor, outside of the Library and out of the reach 
of the city government, will be better able to make a stronger fight 
against encroachments upon it. 

The prediction was correct, for as Winsor himself wrote half a 
dozen years later in his sketch "Libraries in Boston" in The Me- 
morial History of Boston that he edited: 

The friends of the library rallied in its defense; and even the city 
council, on a sober second thought, did not oppose an application 
to the State Legislature for an act of incorporation for the library, 
which was in due time secured. This practically limited the inter- 
ference of the city government to defining the gross limits of ex- 
penditures, so far as they were met from the city treasury. 

Although this good was blown by an ill wind, one cannot explain 
away the genuine tragedy of Winsor's departure. When he crossed 
the Charles River to Cambridge in September 1877, the Boston 
Public Library wandered into a wilderness from which it did not 
emerge for eighteen years. However highly one may regard the de- 
sirable developments of more modern times, there is no blinking the 
fact that the library has never again regained the position of unques- 
tioned national pre-eminence that it held in Winsor's day. For this 
we chiefly have Aldermen O'Brien and Robinson to thank. It is 
only charitable to assume that they did not realize what they were 
doing on that second day of July 1877 when they made their fine 

When Henry L. Pierce, a friend of long standing, returned to the 
mayor's office in 1878, he proposed, in his inaugural address, legis- 
lative action for ensuring the sound permanent administration of 
the library. Consequently the Trustees were made a corporation by 
Chapter 114 of the 1878 Acts of the Massachusetts Legislature, 
approved on 4 April. 



Be it enacted Toy the Senate and House of Representatives in Gen- 
eral Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows: 

SECTION i. The trustees of the public library of the city of 
Boston for the time being are hereby made a corporation by the 
name of the Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston; 
and said trustees and their successors in office shall continue a 
body corporate for the purposes hereinafter set forth, with all the 
the powers and privileges and subject to all the duties, restrictions 
and liabilities in the general laws relating to such corporations. 

SECTION 2. Such corporation shall have authority to take and 
hold real and personal estate to an amount not exceeding one mil- 
lion dollars, which may be given, granted, bequeathed or devised to 
it, and accepted by the trustees for the benefit of the public li- 
brary of the city of Boston or any branch library, or any purpose 
connected therewith. Money received by it shall be invested by the 
treasurer of the city of Boston under the direction of the finance 
committee of said city; and all securities belonging to said corpo- 
ration shall be placed in the custody of said treasurer; provided, 
always, that both the principal and income thereof shall be ap- 
propriated according to the terms of the donation, devise or be- 
quest, under the direction of said corporation. 

SECTION 3. The trustees of the public library shall be seven 
in number. In the month of April in the year eighteen hundred 
and seventy-eight and annually thereafter in the month of Jan- 
uary, the city council shall elect, by concurrent vote of the two 
branches, one member of the board of aldermen, and one member 
of the common council, to be members of said board of trustees, 
to hold office during the remainder of the municipal year in 
which they are elected, and until others are elected in their places. 
And in the month of April in the year eighteen hundred and 
seventy-eight, the mayor shall appoint, subject to the confirmation 
of the city council, five citizens of Boston, not members of the 
city council, to be members of the board of trustees of the public 
library, one of whom shall hold office for five years, one for four 
years, one for three years, and one for two years, and one for one 
year; and upon such election and such appointment and confirma- 
tion, the terms of office of the trustees of the public library then 
holding office shall cease and determine. And annually thereafter, 
in the month of April of each year, the mayor shall appoint, sub- 


ject to tiie confirmation of the city council, one citizen at large as 
a trustee of the public library, to serve for a term of five years 
from the first Monday in May in the year in which he shall be ap- 
pointed. The trustees shall at all times be subject to removal from 
office for cause by a vote of two-thirds of each branch of the city 
council present and voting thereon. Whenever any vacancy shall 
occur in said board of trustees by death, resignation or otherwise, 
said vacancy shall be filled by the election or appointment, in the 
manner aforesaid, of another trustee, who shall hold office for the 
residue of the unexpked term. No member of said board of trustees 
shall receive any pecuniary compensation for his services. 

SECTION 4. The members of said board shall meet for organi- 
zation on the first Monday of each May, and choose one of their 
number as president. They shall have power to make such rales 
and regulations relating to said public library and its branches, and 
its officers and servants, and to fix and enforce penalties for the 
violation of such rules and regulations, as they may deem expedi- 
ent: Provided, that the same shall not be inconsistent with the 
provisions of this act, and shall be subject at all times to such 
limitations, restrictions and amendments as the city council may 

SECTION 5. The said trustees shall have the general care and 
control of the central public library now located in Boylston street 
in said city and of all branches thereof, which have been or which 
may hereafter be established, together with the buildings and 
rooms containing the same, and the fixtures and furniture con- 
nected therewith, and also of the expenditures of the moneys ap- 
propriated therefor. 

SECTION 6. The said board of trustees may appoint a superin- 
tendent or librarian with such assistants and subordinate officers 
as they may think necessary or expedient, and may remove the 
same, and fix their compensation : provided, that the amount thus 
paid shall not exceed the sum appropriated by the city council for 
that item of expense, and the income of any moneys which may 
lawfully be appropriated for the same purpose from funds or 
property held by the said trustees under the provisions of this act. 

SECTION 7. The city council shall have the power to pass such 
ordinances not inconsistent herewith to other laws of the Com- 
monwealth as to the duties and authority of said board as they 
may from time to time deem expedient. 

SECTION 8. This act shall take effect upon its passage. 


By an amendment to the City Charter in 1885, making members 
of the City Council ineligible for membership upon executive 
boards, the number of Trustees of the Public Library was reduced 
from seven to five citizens at large. This arrangement continues to 
the present, as do the main points of the 1878 Act, Subsequent 
amendments of detail have been of minor significance. 

Although the Incorporation of the Trustees stabilized the admin- 
istration of the library in relation to the City Government, it in no 
way eased the problem of replacing the irreplaceable Winsor. In the 
weeks between his resignation and departure for Cambridge, a 
South End Branch based upon 18,000 volumes given by the Mer- 
cantile Library Association was opened, and arrangements were 
completed for enlarging the delivery station at Jamaica Plain into 
a full-fledged branch library. Dr. Samuel A. Green, one of the 
Trustees of the Public Library from 1868 to 1878 and the high- 
handed and extremely cantankerous Librarian of the Massachusetts 
Historical Society from 1868 until his death in 1918, was placed 
in a temporary position as "Trustee in charge" that continued for 
more than a year. The American Library Journal, in commenting 
on Winsor's resignation, had observed: 

In the mean time the Library will doubtless "run itself" without 
difficulty, for it is die part of a great organizer to gather about 
him such men as will make him unnecessary for any given time, or 
until a crisis comes or fresh progress is to be set on foot. It is to be 
trusted that this, which is the best testimony to Mr. Winsor's suc- 
cess, will not be accepted from the demagogues as evidence that 
like ability is no longer needed at the head of the Library. 

One can gather enough about the formidable Dr. Green from 
scholars now living, who met him at their peril in later years at the 
Massachusetts Historical Society, to make one aware that he was 
hardly the ideal successor. Obviously the library ran along, for it 
was not only well organized, but Winsor had persuaded his valued 
assistants Whitney and Hubbard to restrain their natural inclina- 
tions to resign also. Even the newspapers were worried about "fresh 
progress to be set on foot" and aware that, once momentum is lost, 
a fresh start is painful. The Sunday Herald of 30 December 1877 


dealt truthfully but subtly with the problem by publishing a fable 
entitled "How a steamer went to sea without any captain/' 

There was once a fine steamer named the Joshua Bates, after 
one of the famous firm of Baring Bros. & Co., in London, well 
manned and equipped, with a full cargo and many passengers. 
The captain was a good seaman, who knew every rope in the ship 

and every wind that Hew. People said he was born to sail a ship. 
So the owners of another ship offered him higher pay to come to 
them and sail their old craft, and, as his owners would not agree 
to keep him for several voyages more, he prudently left their serv- 
ice for the other parties, who always kept their men till they died. 
Naturally the chief mate should have taken the ship for the voyage, 
but he and the second mate were set to keeping the log by the 
owners' agent, and so they remained below perpetually writing the 
log. Whether the ship went ahead or astern, they kept on writing 
their log. But some one must sail the ship. And it chanced that 
some of the part owners were on board, and they hit on the idea of 
sailing her themselves. One was an apothecary, one was a lamp- 
lighter in the city, and the other had never done anything at alt, 
and none of them had ever been to sea before. But no matter, they 
thought they could run the vessel as well as any other man, till 
they could find a new captain; so they sailed the ship. And I must 
not omit to say that one took charge of the bow, and another of the 
stern, while the one who had never done anything at all continued 
to do nothing. He sat and looked at the others, but counted for 
one, just the same as if he did something. One of the assistant 
engineers thought he had had enough of the sea, and concluded 
to retire. Did they look for another? Oh! no; they said, "we have 
more waiters in lie saloon than we need for our passengers. Let 
us take the head waiter and let him run the engine, and he will 
do it for the same pay, or we can let him go, which he will not 
want to do!" So they put the head waiter in to run one of the en- 
gines. The committee did not think it worth while to buy much 
coal, and but a small stock of provisions, though they were bound 
on a long voyage and there were many passengers. Neither did 
they think it necessary to get new sails or replace ropes that were 
old. The officer of the deck, too, who, you know, watches the com- 
passes and makes himself generally useful, besides talking to the 
passengers and telling them which way the wind blew, and how 
she headed, and when she would probably get in, and all that; him 
the committee considered entirely useless, and put ashore at the 
lower light. By and by the ship sailed. I wonder when she landed 


and what condition she was in. If she ever should arrive, it will 
be well for the rest of the owners to look after that committee. 

This was preceded by some sharp observations concerning the Trus- 
tees' experiments "in the direction of incommoding its patrons, di- 
minishing the circulation, and impairing the usefulness and accept- 
ability of the library" that had involved the removal of Henry Ware, 
Keeper of Bates Hall, and Arthur A. Brooks, Assistant Keeper of 
the Lower Hall. The Sunday Herald suggested to the Trustees "that 
they let well enough alone until they are in position to offer the 
vacant superintendency to a man qualified to carry on the institu- 
tion, and leave the change and new experiments to him/' 

The advice was not promptly heeded, for no appointment was 
made until the fall of 1878, and the action taken then had a certain 
unexpected and accidental quality. The Honorable Mellen Cham- 
berlain, a New Hampshireman of the Dartmouth class of 1 844, who 
had settled in Chelsea and had sat for a dozen years on the bench 
of the Boston Municipal Court, happened by, while "endeavoring 
to promote the election of a friend/ 1 and was chosen himself. Judge 
Chamberlain was a man in his fifties, of scholarly tastes and collect- 
ing habits. Elected to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1873, 
he was a faithful member, who regularly, until his death in 1900, 
contributed papers on phases of colonial history. These historical 
and literary tastes he carried into the search for autographs and 
manuscripts, assembling a sizeable collection that he gave to the 
Boston Public Library in 1893. He was not only a man of wide in- 
terests, but of a "clubable" disposition, that made him, in later years, 
an agreeable companion at the St. Botolph Club. His qualifications 
bore at least a superficial resemblance to those of Justin Winsor, 
who had been appointed in 1868 with no previous professional 
training in running a library. There is, however, as skilful military 
strategists know, a danger in planning an operation upon the ex- 
perience of the last war. The trench warfare of 1914-1918 led to 
the construction of the Maginot Line, which proved entirely calami- 
tous in a mechanized war of movement. Apparent similarities, de- 
rived from too rigid a devotion to the precedents of history, may 
get both military commanders and boards of trustees into trouble. 
Judge Chamberlain was a sincere and conscientious administrator, 


who introduced night watchmen, devised schemes for dusting the 
books, and generally took his duties seriously, but he had none of 
Justin Winsor's clipper ship flair for crowding on sail and steering 
a direct but sound course at record speed. The best sailors do not 
confine themselves always to keeping before the wind. 

Judge Chamberlain took over his new duties on i October 1878, 
but as Librarian rather than Superintendent. The latter title may 
have been devised in 1858 at least partly to introduce Jewett to the 
scene without unreasonable damage to the sensibilities of Edward 
Capen, the first Librarian. As Capen had emigrated to Haverhill in 
1874, both posts were vacant, but there is a reasonable inference 
that Chamberlain was not designated Superintendent because the 
"owners' agents/' having had a taste of steering the ship themselves 
proposed, for better or worse, to continue. 

In his 1879 report, beside questions of housekeeping, the new 
Librarian raised the question : "How can the Public Library be made 
to participate more efficiently than at present in the work of public 
education?" The answer to this rather wordy discussion appeared 
the following year in Chamberlain's account of a request received 
from the principal of the Wells School for fifty copies of Mrs. Whit- 
ney's A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life and of George M. 
Towle's Pizarro; Ms Adventures and Conquests to be retained for 
an indefinite period. Although there were only two or three copies 
of each in the library and no funds from which more could be 
properly purchased, a friend came to the rescue and provided fifty 
dollars for the books, with gratifying results. The effort, however 
well meant, hardly had the Winsor touch. 

Although Judge Chamberlain had not known Winsor during his 
Boston service, they became good friends in subsequent years, a 
process possibly made easier by Winsor's election to the Massachu- 
setts Historical Society in June 1877. Chamberlain's genuine ad- 
miration for his predecessor's accomplishment is clearly expressed 
in the tribute that he paid, after Winsor's death, at the November 
1897 meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 

No sooner had I taken my chair than with special pains I en- 
deavored to understand the nature and extent of Mr. Winsor's li- 


brary views, plans and labors during his ten years' incumbency. 
This, endeavor included not merely a cursory examination of the 
annual reports of the trustees, the examining committee, and the 
librarian, but a study of them with a thoroughness which I had 
brought to few things save those relating to my profession. I was 
not only amazed, but quite dismayed at the prospect of attempting 
to fill an office which I had not sought, but to which I had been 
elected while endeavoring to promote the election of a friend . . . 

When I came to the Public Library, I found it in perfect order 
and running itself, so to speak, without the need of a directing 
head. This was due to the efficiency of Mr. Winsor 's administra- 
tion. He had trained his assistants to self-discipline and correct 
habits. Others in various fields of administration have done the 
same; but with a tendency, as is too often seen, to relapse when 
the strong personality has been withdrawn. But what seems to me 
most remarkable is, that during my twelve years of administration 
I discovered no such tendency; for Mr. Winsor had not only 
formed correct habits in his associates, but he had also formed 
their permanent character, as may be seen in those who now sur- 
vive him, twenty years after his retirement from the Library. 

While those of the old staff who remained doubtless deserved 
Judge Chamberlain's praise, not all of Winsor's associates cared 
enough for the changed conditions to outstay him long. His second 
and third mates, James M. Hubbard and Frederic B. Perkins, took 
their departures within two years of Winsor, and went into vocifer- 
ous public opposition to the library's current policies. Perkins, who 
went first to the Cooperation Committee of the new American Li- 
brary Association before becoming Librarian of the San Francisco 
Public Library, ventilated his views upon the inadequacies of the 
situation in three letters to Mayor Prince. These documents, dated 
i February, 15 March and 29 April 1880, were highly critical of 
the library's standard of cataloguing, but even more vehement in 
their opposition to the practices of the Trustees. Perkins explained 
that he addressed himself to the Mayor rather than to the Trustees 
"because it is precisely the composition and methods of the Board, 
which need reforming; and therefore to address it directly is the 
least likely method to reform it." The core of his complaint con- 
cerned "the administrative disorganization which has been silently 
introduced into the Library." 


As you know, as every other good business man knows, every 
large institution, government, bank, mill, insurance company, 
church, college, must necessarily be conducted, if successful, by 
one central head. The Continental Congress tried to govern the 
United States by a set of committees. Every historical student 
knows the miserable mess they made of it, and how out of their 
imbecility arose our own wisely framed government with a single 
executive. I appeal to your own administrative experience as 
Mayor of Boston as a proof, so close before our eyes, of the in- 
dispensable necessity of this mode of business organization. 

The Public Library has at present no executive head. It is not 
governed, but fumbled, by a set of committees. While Mr. Win- 
sor was superintendent, he was (in the words of the by-laws) "the 
proper executive officer of the Trustees and their committees/' 
This was as it should be. After Mr. Winsor left, this clause was 
struck out of the by-laws, and now there is no "proper executive 
officer." Judge Chamberlain is only a head clerk, without the of- 
ficial dignity or authority to which his high personal character and 
his official station entitle him. Whether he is a good librarian or 
not, he has not had an opportunity to show. As for the service of 
the Library, it goes on, to a considerable extent, because the great 
administrative abilities of Mr. Winsor "set up" the machine so 
strongly that it runs, so to speak, of itself. But every man of in- 
sight and close observing power who has watched the Library will 
feel the truth of this following statement of mine to wit: since 
Mr. Winsor left the Public Library, it has lost its leadership among 
the libraries of America; what Judge Chamberlain could do to 
maintain that leadership he has not had a chance to show; and 
while the Library is mismanaged in this radically vicious and help- 
less way, it will certainly not gain, and in all probability will con- 
tinue to lose, in efficiency and reputation. This executive clause in 
the by-laws of the Trustees should be at once replaced. 

Perkins's barbs obviously hurt, for the 1881 library report con- 
tains a singularly pompous and legalistic defense of the Trustees' 
administrative policies that is as damning as any confession of guilt. 
The Trustees alleged that "the principles which have given this 
institution its great success were laid down by the original Board of 
Trustees, and have not been varied from in principle since/' and 
that "while the principles at the outset were right, they were not 
derived from a corps of librarians and the heads of the different 
administrative departments of a great library." They invoke a "faith 
once for all delivered to the saints" in the paragraph: 


The Trustees of the Library have no power to lay aside their 
responsibility. By the by-laws of the institution they have given 
to the Librarian, the chief executive officer, all the authority which 
may reasonably and properly be given to such an administrator of 
its affairs. The institution is to be managed for the greatest good 
of the largest number of people, and so it has come down to the 
present from former Boards of Trustees. The original ordinance 
requires it. 

This explanation of motives only partially summarized here was 
signed by President Greenough, the Reverend James Freeman 
Clarke (a Trustee since 1879), Professor Henry W. Haynes (a 
Trustee elected in 1880), Alderman Hugh O'Brien and Council- 
man Charles E. Pratt, who had been designated by the City Council 
since 1879 and 1880, respectively. George B. Chase was in Europe, 
and Samuel A. B. Abbott, a lawyer of the Harvard class of 1866, 
who had become a Trustee in 1879, expressed his dissent by the 
uncommunicative statement: "I cannot sign the foregoing report/' 
To express his conviction that "God's in his heaven; All's right 
with the world," Judge Chamberlain prefaced his report by a state- 
ment that "though he has no vote in the proceedings of the Trus- 
tees, and, therefore, no responsibility for the result of their delibera- 
tions, yet, when these take form in legislative acts, he is brought into 
immediate relation to those acts in their execution, and with that his 
responsibility begins, and is limited only by the requirements of 
successful administration." In 1871 any discussion would have 
been about the means of getting books read; in 1 88 1 we have instead 
this dancing of a legal minuet over powers and responsibilities. The 
completeness of the change of atmosphere naturally leads to specu- 
lation about its cause. Two explanations are possible. Either Mr. 
Greenough had, late in life, been seized with a sense of his own 
omniscience, or his recently elected colleagues had brought the in- 
fection of that disease to the board with them. It is hard at this dis- 
tance to tell which, but the strictures upon the library's policy of 
book selection made by the 1884 Examining Committee suggest the 
former. That group, which included Thomas Sergeant Perry, Robert 
Grant and Brooke Herford, made the following comment: 

The ultimate decision as to what books shall be purchased rests 
nominally with the Book Committee of the Trustees; in fact, the 


selection from the books recommended is made by the President o 
the Board. As long as the President is willing to devote so much 
time as at present to this work there can be no doubt that it is 
practically as well done as it could be in any other way; but it 
seems to this committee that this is too important a work to be 
allowed to remain dependent upon the power and health of any 
single honorary officer. 

In assuming this responsibility, Greenough no doubt felt that he was 
merely carrying on the tradition of Ticknor, whom he had succeeded 
in the presidency in 1866, and who gave great attention to the cata- 
logues of publishers and booksellers. Ticknor had been, however, 
not only a remarkable scholar but a modest one, as will be seen by 
the following letter that he had written to Jewett. 

PARK STREET, Oct. 3. '60 

My dear Sir, 

If you wiU send to my house about Vz past 2 o'clock today, I 
will have ready a mass of books and pamphlets, which, in arrang- 
ing my Library, I find I cannot conveniently have room for. Some 
of them have more or less value; some are, no doubt worthless. 
But I do not wish to give anything to the public which ought not 
to be kept, in the reasonable hope that it may be useful. Be good 
enough, therefore, to look the whole over and throw out whatever 
you do not think worth a place in the Library; offering only the 
remainder to the Trustees at their next meeting. 

You may find among the city documents, the reports of socie- 
ties, &c, separate tracts that will help to complete our sets; and 
among the accounts of foreign galleries there are catalogues by 
Welcker, Matthaei, Waagen c that are worth preserving. Other- 
wise both these lots should, I think, be thrown away, in the most 
ruthless manner. If I had time, I would sift them a little myself 
but I am excessively occupied and have none too much strength for 
my work. Besides I cannot exactly tell what you may want out of 
what I account nothing worth. But, in no event, keep trash. We 
have too much of that already in our dark room; and it is time 
we should remember that there is a great deal of matter in print 
that never ought to have been printed at all and that will only 
serve to cumber any shelves it may be put on. 

Yours sincerely, 


C. C. JEWETT, Esq., Public Library 

Please let Mr. Ford come. He will need a stout man to help him, 
and four or five boxes. 


Three years after Mr. Greenough's retirement from the presidency 
in 1888, the 1891 report referred to him as having '"been in effect 
the manager of the present Library for twenty-two years/' Regard- 
less of individual responsibilities, the Public Library was during 
the eighties quite thoroughly in the doldrums, thanks to committee 

As no choice of books, however conscientiously made, will suit all 
tastes, the Public Library received its fair share of criticism on this 
score. One approach is represented by an anecdote from the Boston 
Traveller, reprinted in the American Library Journal for 3 1 October 

"Say, mister/' said a small boy to one of the assistants at the public 
library, "I can't find the books I want to git into these here cata- 
logs. I wish yer'd find 1m for me." "What work do you wish to 
draw/' paternally inquired the official. "Well, hev yer got Mulli- 
gan the Masher, or the Gory Galoot of the Galtees?" The man 
shook his head. "Well, I'd like Red-Headed Ralph, the Ranger of 
the Roaring Rialto." "We don't keep any of that kind of trash, my 
boy." "Wot sort of a libery is this, anyway?" retorted the gamin; 
"wy, it's just like everythin' else in this country run for the rich, 
an' the poor workingman gits no show at all." 

The 1878 Examining Committee faced squarely those critics who 
implied that the library was overstocked with Mulligan-type fiction, 
by affirming that "the character of the books supplied" was desirable. 
They admitted that some poor specimens had crept in; "not directly 
and positively beneficial, concerning which the best you can say is, 
that they form a taste, that they whet and sharpen an appetite for 
reading/' Concerning these, the Committee spoke, as Justin Winsor 
might have: 

Banish them from the Library, as some advise, and you banish 
their readers also. Keep them in the Library and you keep their 
readers also; who, with constantly improving taste, will finally se- 
lect books of unquestionable excellence and profit. 

They advised leaving the whole problem to the Superintendent and 
the Trustees. The latter body, although reminding parents of their 
obligation to look after their children's welfare, gradually attempted 
to reduce the purchase of "sensational and vapid productions." 


Although the 1880 circulation fell in consequence, the restriction 
was not severe enough to suit James M. Hubbard, who, late in that 
year, began a press campaign against the library's policies regarding 
both popular and scholarly books. His departure from the library 
indicated his views clearly enough, but in the Sunday Herald for 21 
November 1880 he aimed a charge of buckshot at many targets. 
Stating that the Boston Public Library had been founded to ensure 
the education of the people, he inquired whether the Trustees 
whose committee methods he abhorred were still carrying out this 
object. In answering his own question, he found that 

Great labor is spent in searching sales catalogues, but it is exclu- 
sively in the interests of scholars, and a very large proportion of 
the money available for books is spent for works not intended for 
general use. Last spring a trustee on his own responsibility, I 
have good reason to believe took $2,400, nearly a tenth of the 
annual appropriation, to a sale to spend for books not one of which 
could be of general use. Seven years ago, $34,000 was paid for a 
collection [the Barton Library] still inaccessible to the public, and 
not fit for circulation, many of the books on account of their value, 
many on account of their character. 

Hubbard seems to have had a weak stomach, for, after slurring the 
"character" of the Elizabethans in the Barton Library, he took a 
fling at the popular fiction, alleging that "many distinctly bad boobs, 
openly attacking morality and religion, and giving lively descrip- 
tions of the demi-monde/ are put into the hands even of children." 
This kind of tirade was unsympathetic to Winsor, who was no doubt 
referring to Hubbard's extravagancies when, in his opening presi- 
dential address at the February 1881 meeting of the American Li- 
brary Association in Washington, he remarked: 

I would not be blinded to the fact that mischief, and enough of it, 
may lurk in books. It will do its work in spite of us; but, if we 
would keep it at its minimum, we do not wisely make this mis- 
chief prominent. Our emphasis should be upon the wholesome, 
and upon that which healthfully stimulates ... I must de- 
cidedly differ from those who, for the common good, take to the 
method of magnifying an evil the better to eradicate it. I believe 
that under cultivation the weeds succumb. 


Hubbard was not easily squelched, for In October 1881 he pub- 
lished a pamphlet, The Public Library and the School Children, An 
Appeal to the Parents, Clergymen, and Teachers of Boston, and con- 
tinued his campaign with further appeals in 1881 and 1882. His 
earlier diatribes evoked from the Trustees, in their 1881 report, a 
reasoned and dignified statement of the Library's attitude to ques- 
tions of censorship inspired by external pressure. 

While they carefully exclude from circulation, especially among 
the young, all books of an immoral influence, they do not consider 
themselves in the position of parents, or guardians to the commu- 
nity, bound to select for it only such books as suit their own tastes. 
The argument of Milton, in his Areopagitica, against a censorship 
of books largely applies to the present question. He opposes the 
prohibition of books which might possibly be injurious, on the 
ground that it was not the intention of the Almighty to place us 
in a world from which all temptation is excluded. Any standard 
of taste that would deprive the Public Library of such books as 
Jane Eyre, Adam Bede, and The Scarlet Letter, would not satisfy 
the just demands of the community. 

The problem continued to be argued in some quarters. Although a 
majority of the 1882 Examining Committee strongly supported the 
library's policy, and commended Judge Chamberlain's efforts "to 
improve the moral character of the books circulated," a minority 
consisting of the Reverend Leighton Parks and Colonel Homer B. 
Sprague urged the hiring of a special staff to weed out books of 
"a positively immoral character/' those "tending to lower the moral 
tone of the reader/' and any "tending to encourage a spirit of irrever- 
ence concerning religion and virtue/' The majority of the committee 
replied, in a postscript, that 

... it is not asked of the Trustees and officials of the Library 
that they shall turn Puritan in their literary tastes when public 
sentiment fails to justify such action. They are the servants of the 
public, not the censors of their morals and manners. 

Hubbard's criticism of the Barton Library purchase may well have 
inspired Judge Chamberlain to ask H. H. Furness to give his opin- 
ion on the value of the library's Shakespeare collection. A letter from 
that eminent scholar, printed in the 1882 report, placed the Boston 


Public Library's Shakespeare holdings as the finest in the United 
States at the time, and inferior only to the collections of the British 
Museum, the Bodleian, and Trinity College, Cambridge. In a simi- 
lar attempt at appraisal, the 1883 Examining Committee induced 
Thomas Wentworth Higginson to describe the Parker Library, and 
Thomas Sergeant Perry to evaluate the French literary holdings, 
while William F. Apthorp made specific suggestions concerning the 
musical department. 

A greatly increased use of books in Bates Hall so inspired addi- 
tions to the library's scholarly possessions that in 1890 the City 
Council appropriated $20,000 for the purchase of books at the sale 
of the late Samuel L. M. Barlow's library. From the dispersal of this 
collection, which offered a unique opportunity to secure works on 
early American history, the library obtained, among other things, 
the Latin version of the first letter of Columbus, and a manuscript 
"True Copie of the Court Booke of the Governor and Society of 
the Massachusetts Bay in New England," containing some local 
records not duplicated elsewhere. This excursion into the upper 
levels of the auction market obviously rested heavily on some con- 
sciences, for the Trustees in 1892 were tentatively explaining that, 
if the State would only take the "Court Booke" off their hands for 
the $6,500 it had cost them at the Barlow sale, they would have 
money enough to carry out the improvement of the musical de- 
partment recommended in 1883 by Mr. Apthorp. Such purchases 
though flattering to self-esteem, were edging the library away from 
Ticknor's concept, and by 1893 the Examining Committee was 
concerned over the widening gulf. After rehearsing the principles 
of book selection included by Ticfcnor in the 1852 report, the com- 
mittee noted with some dismay that in twelve lists of recent acces- 
sions, selected at random, and containing about 2,200 titles, 950 
were in foreign languages, mostly German and French, but includ- 
ing Norwegian, Sanskrit, Russian, Welsh, Arabic and Volapuk. 

About one quarter of the English books are starred, and therefore 
not intended for circulation, and many of those so marked are of 
little common interest, being reports or memorials, or treatises on 
technical subjects. The small remainder, probably not more than 
a hundred, of works of a general literary character, is almost hid- 


den among the many strange and curious titles . . . Your com- 
mittee would suggest that more discrimination be exercised in the 
choice of popular books. There are now none too many, but they 
might be better chosen. 

The committee further found that the special bibliographies in- 
cluded in recent quarterly Bulletins, although of value to a small 
group of students, did little towards furthering Tlcknor's ideal "that 
the means of general information should be so diffused that the 
largest possible number of persons should be induced to read and 
understand questions which are constantly presenting themselves/' 
Appendices to the Librarian's reports continued, in the pattern 
set by Justin Winsor, to give very full details upon the growth and 
use of the library. Anyone with a speculative fondness for statistics 
will find these documents of absorbing interest in their reflection 
of popular taste. In general they show a steady growth of books and 
a relative diminution of their use. Circulation (which included 
books used in the library in addition to those withdrawn) fell off 
after an 1878 peak of 1,183,991. In fact, such a figure was not 
again reached until 1890, although the total volumes owned in that 
year amounted to 536,027 against a count of 345,734 in 1878. 
Against a permanent decline in Lower Hall circulation generally 
attributable to the restriction of the Mulligan the Masher type of 
fiction the use of Bates Hall increased several times over. Some- 
thing of the pattern may be seen in the following figures, chosen to 
show the extent and use of the library at five-year intervals. 

Volumes Total Bates Hall Circulation 


in Library 


Home Use 

Hall Use 

Lower Hall 

























The branch library system moved slowly in the eighties. The 
South End Branch, originally established at the corner of Tremont 
and Newton Streets, in the basement of the Mercantile Library As- 
sociation, which had given its books for the purpose, caused con- 
siderable misgiving. Finally when in 1881 the branch moved to 


better quarters elsewhere, the Association, deprived of its library, 
entered upon a steadily less successful career as a social club that 
came to a dusty and inglorious end in 1952. A North End Branch, 
opened in the Hancock school-house in 1883, was the target of se- 
vere criticism in 1890. The Examining Committee of that year, 
claiming that branches were inadequately supervised and that a re- 
vival of the old post of "Inspector of Circulation" was needed, 
stated : 

Were such an officer to visit the North End Library during the 
hours in which it is open, he would at once report that it is un- 
fit for human occupancy ... In all their visits to this Library 
the Committee have never met both attendants on duty at the 
same time, as one or the other has been absent on account of sick- 
ness incurred by living several hours a day in a fetid atmosphere, 
only improved by opening windows upon a back alley, concerning 
which the Committee have asked the Trustees to complain to the 
Board of Health. The people of the North End have to some extent 
learned to stay away from a room with noxious odors without and 
a gas-consumed atmosphere within. 

This iniquity was soon removed by shifting the branch to a second- 
story room at 166 Hanover Street that was both better ventilated 
and less accessible to mischievous boys. 

In 1893, with nine branches and sixteen delivery stations in 
operation, the principal unsatisfied need was for a West End 
Branch. When the West Church, whose pulpit had been orna- 
mented by Jonathan Mayhew and Charles Lowell, went the way 
of many city churches in 1892, Andrew C. Wheelwright with out- 
standing public spirit bought its dignified meeting house at the 
corner of Cambridge and Lynde Streets. Mr. Wheelwright held this 
fine building, designed by Asher Benjamin in 1806, until the City 
took it off his hands in 1894 for conversion to library use. Thus the 
combined imaginativeness of a generous citizen and the Public 
Library Trustees succeeded in saving, for a changing quarter of the 
city, one of its outstanding beauties, and converting this landmark 
of the past to new and vital uses for the future. The conversion is 
all the more creditable when one considers how little thought tad 
been previously given to the preservation of historical monuments 


in Boston. The Hancock house was wantonly destroyed as recently 
as 1863, and the first real instance of civic consciousness in such 
matters was the campaign of 1876 that succeeded in saving the Old 

South Meeting House in Washington Street. 

: j^?tft,::.: yivtr- j.y .- s ji r j?;gyffi.j- l^ffi yyff >? asfefl- 
3 v: ; '.j^^j;^ . ''^iiv jf : W'j J i:^ d vg^ ^ijj 


The matter which most concerned everyone interested in the 
Public Library in the years following Winsor's departure was the in- 
adequacy of the Boylston Street building. From 1878 onward the 

desire was to escape at the first opportunity, but opinions as to ways 
and means were diverse. The complicated story of the planning that 
eventually led to the construction of the present library in Copley 
Square will, for the sake of clarity, be reserved for the following 
chapter. It will suffice here to summarize the administrative changes 


that occurred prior to the occupation o the new library in 1895. 

William W. Greenough, having served the library without stint of 
time since his election to the board in 1856, resigned the presidency 
in April 1888. His successor, Professor Henry W. Haynes, who, 
through service in 1858-1859 had also known the founders, and 

who had been a Trustee since 1880, resigned as President after 
occupying the chair for the six days of 7 to 12 May 1888. Samuel 

Appleton Browne Abbott, a Trustee since 1879, was then elected, 
and exhibited greater staying powers as a presiding officer. Like 
Greenough, Abbott carried out his duties with extraordinary fi- 
delity and, often a controversial figure, left his mark both upon the 
library and upon the city. 

Judge Chamberlain offered his resignation as Librarian because 
of ill health on i July 1890, to take effect on i October. When it 
was accepted, on 8 July, President Abbott was "authorized to act 
with all the powers and duties of the Chief Executive officer of the 
Trustees." Nothing was done about filling the vacancy, for the 
Trustees W 7 ere not only intensely preoccupied with the details of 
the new building, but happily confident of their ability to meet all 
administrative requirements without professional assistance. The 
failure to appoint a Librarian only confirmed the dim view of the 
library held by outside observers during the previous thirteen years, 
for it appeared that Abbott, in addition to undisputed and indefati- 
gable control of building the new library in Copley Square, now 
proposed to add the detailed current management of the library to 
his other responsibilities. Boston newspapers had grumbled so much 
about "Trustee-Librarian Abbott" that the hope expressed by the 
1891 Examining Committee "that the trustees will soon feel it pos- 
sible to appoint a librarian to fill the vacancy which has now existed 
for more than a year," accompanied by the polite explanation that 
"such an appointment would relieve the trustees and officers of their 
present unusual responsibility," was like a red flag to a bull. The 
Trustees' comment left no one in any doubt. 

In regard to the suggestion that the appointment of a librarian 

will relieve the trustees of unusnal responsibility, they would say, 
that whether or not a librarian is in charge of the building their 
responsibility remains the same. They are given by law the con- 


trol and management of the Library and all Its branches, and their 

responsibility cannot be shifted to any other shoulders. 

The wonderful success of the Library has been due to the fact 
that the present trustees and their predecessors in the trust have 

felt the full weight of this responsibility, and have at all times re- 
fused to delegate any part of it to subordinates. 

It might be noted parenthetically that the weight of this responsi- 
bility must Indeed have been considerable to conscientious men, 
when one reflects that, at their semi-weekly meetings, the Trustees 
carefully deliberated over such matters as the change in one female 
assistant's dinner hour on Mondays, the disposition of two books 
from a branch library whose borrower had been stricken with scar- 
let fever, and the relative merits of various brands of plumbing 
fixtures. As perfectionists, they reasonably resented criticism of 
faults that were not their own, as when, in 1888, they made it clear 

The darkness of the halls of the Library is not attributable to the 
Board of Trustees. The building was constructed by a commission 
composed of four citizens-at-large and three members of the city 

government of the day. 

Again In 1890 a criticism by the Examining Committee had evoked 
the somewhat querulous comment: 

The Trustees are not surprised that the "poor quality of gas is a 
subject of complaint at Jamaica Plain." In this respect the branch 
suffers In common with the Central Library and other branches. 
It is feared that it Is an evil that cannot be remedied by the Trus- 

A few years earlier It might have been, for Mr. Greenough had 
been Treasurer of the Boston Gas Light Company from 1852 to 

After congratulating themselves so modestly upon the "wonderful 

success of the Library" the Trustees assured the 1891 Examining 
Committee that they had considered the subject of the appointment 

of a librarian with great care. 

The qualifications for a librarian are peculiar, and It is difficult to 
find any person possessing them. When the trustees are satisfied 


that this position can be filled for the best interests of the Library, 
a librarian or superintendent will be appointed. 

The name of Theodore Frelinghuysen Dwight had been consid- 
ered as early as March 1891, but no action had been taken. Dwight, 
who was born in 1 846, had, following a brief passage through a San 
Francisco banking house in the early seventies, turned to publishing 

before becoming secretary and librarian to the historian George 
Bancroft. After thirteen years in Washington, as Librarian of the 
Department of State, he had resigned to take charge of the extraor- 
dinary archives of the Adams family at Quincy. Henry Adams, writ- 
ing to Elizabeth Cameron in 1888, had described Dwight as 

... a sort of literary factotum, [who] will soon be in general 
charge of the establishment, from the kitchen to the barn. I don't 
know how he can manage a farm, but I do know that neither my 
brothers nor I can do any better, so you may see him milking a 
cow, and reading an old MS. at the same time. We none of us 
know our whole genius till we've been tried. 

The name of this versatile genius was brought up once again on 23 

February 1892, when it was voted that the salary of a Librarian, 
when one shall be appointed, was to be $5,000. On i March 1892 
the Trustees first amended their by-laws so as to provide that no 
person shall hold two of the offices, President, Clerk and Librarian, 
and then proceeded to elect Mr. Dwight Librarian. The amendment, 
in juxtaposition to the election, seems all the more discourteous 
when one recalls that Jewett, Winsor and Chamberlain had all 
served as Secretary or Clerk of the Trustees, and thus had although 
without the power of voting full knowledge of the board's de- 
liberations both on matters of major policy and trivial detail. The 
decision to exclude Dwight, and to appoint his future second-in- 
command, Louis F. Gray, as Clerk of the Corporation, could hardly 
have eased administrative frictions any more than the by-law pro- 
viding that the positions and duties of all persons employed in the 
library were to be determined by "the Corporation or the Librarian." 
Dwight became Librarian on 13 April 1892, but on 19 December 
1893 announced his intention to withdraw from the office as of 
30 April 1894. He was then granted leave of absence, as he re- 


quested, for the remainder of his term. The official explanation 
given to the press was "poor health and inability to stand the cares 
and responsibilities of the office." Nearly a year elapsed before his 
successor, Herbert Putnam, arrived in February 1895, bringing 
with him a fresh breeze that rapidly sped the Public Library out of 
the doldrums. 


The early volumes of the American Library Journal, which began 
publication on 30 September 1876 with Melvil Dewey as managing 
editor, contain numerous references to Justin Winsor's departure 
for Cambridge and its effect upon the Boston Public Library. See, 
in particular, the editorial of 31 July 1877, 1 (1876-77), 395396; 
the article "The Change of Boston" of the following week (pp. 401 
402). The Boston Sunday Herald's bitter little fable "How a steamer 
went to sea without any captain" was reprinted in II (1877-78), 

From this period onwards I have found many useful newspaper 
references in the collection of scrapbooks preserved in the Trustees' 
Room of the library. 

Frederick B. Perkins's letters to Mayor Prince were privately 
printed. I have used the Boston Athenaeum copies (:XL5.B656p) 
that he sent to Charles A. Cutter. 

George Ticknor's letter of 3 October 1860 to Jewett is in the 
Boston Public Library miscellaneous volume T.R. 15.10. 


Building the New Library 

These chosen precincts, set apart 

For learned toil and holy shrines, 
Yield willing homes to every art 

That trains or strengthens or refines. 

THE Boylston Street library represented generous faith on the 
part of the City Government. It was a noble experiment, but, 
built in years when nobody knew what a popular public library 
might become, it simply did not meet the needs of its users. When 
ten years old it was considered unsatisfactory; at twenty it was in- 
tolerable. Much thought and a good deal of money had been spent 
upon its improvement during Winsor's decade, but by 1878 every- 
one had had enough. The Examining Committee of that year, recog- 
nizing that it could never be made absolutely fireproof, quiet, and 
decently ventilated, urged the Trustees to ask the State Legislature 
to give the city a square of Back Bay lands on which a wholly new 
library might be built. 

Only those with a taste for eighteenth century maps remember 
today that Boston was once a peninsula, connected with Roxbury 
by a neck so narrow that a single gate near the present intersection 
of Washington and Dover Streets would bar all access from the 
mainland. It is one of the few places where hills have literally, as 
well as figuratively, been cut down to fill in the valleys, for from 
1814, when tidal dams carrying toll roads were first pushed through 
the Back Bay, water was steadily being replaced by land. Haphazard 
filling was regulated in 1850, when the City took steps that led to 
the orderly development of the South End. The handsome prospect 
of Columbus and Harrison Avenues and the extended Tremont and 


Washington Streets, with regularly intersecting streets, parks and 
squares, suggested the wisdom of filling the remaining portion of 
the Back Bay. This was undertaken by the Commonwealth in 1857, 
and when, by means of endless dump-carts of gravel, the metamor- 
phosis of the Back Bay from water to land had been completed, the 
mill dam became an extension of Beacon Street; Commonwealth 
Avenue, Marlborough and Newbury Streets were laid out; and Boyl- 
ston Street was prolonged into the new territory. Although the ma- 
jority of lots were sold by the Commonwealth, certain areas were 
freely given to the City and to institutions. The Massachusetts In- 
stitute of Technology, incorporated in 1861, had been granted a 
large part of the Berkeley-Clarendon block of Boylston and New- 
bury Streets, while the Boston Society of Natural History had, in 
1864, put up on the rest of it the building now transformed into 
Bonwit-Teller's store. The Museum of Fine Arts, incorporated in 
1870 as an outgrowth of the Boston Athenseum, had in 1876 moved 
into a new building in Copley Square. This land the site of the 
present Sheraton-Plaza had been granted in 1870 by the City, 
which had received it from the Boston Water Power Company, the 
promoters of the tidal mill dams. Almost as the Back Bay came into 
being, the residents of the equally attractive South End abandoned 
their properties and scrambled into the newer development. Follow- 
ing the movement of fashion, the parishioners of Trinity Church, 
burned out of Summer Street by the great fire of 1872, chose Cop- 
ley Square for a new home, while the Old South Church was in 
1876 displaying unseemly haste to be profitably rid of its historic 
meeting house in Washington Street so as to pay for its new build- 
ing at Boylston and Dartmouth Streets. Here was a whole new Bos- 
ton rapidly rising, like Venus from the sea, in which the new public 
and learned institutions were happily settling, through the gener- 
osity of the Commonwealth and the City. The Public Library had 
proved its usefulness. Why should not it too share in this municipal 

Mayor Frederick 0. Prince, in his inaugural address of 1879, 
agreed that an addition to the Boylston Street Library would be 
merely temporary relief, and vaguely suggested moving the Lower 
Hall and Reading Room "to some convenient place, until the time 


shall arrive when it will be proper to erect a new building/' Professor 
Haynes, commending to the 1879 Examining Committee the policy 
"which almost thrusts a book into the hands of every inhabitant, and 
insists upon his reading it," found that the reference library was in- 
adequately used because of overcrowding. The committee, impressed 
by his findings, urged that land be acquired for a new building of 
quadrangular form, part of which should be built immediately "to 
accommodate the books used for reference and consultation." It 
should contain ample space for students, and be capable of future 
enlargement. This would leave the entire Boylston Street building 
for the adequate housing of the Lower Hall collection. 

The committee would urge this matter at the present time, be- 
cause the land, which could now be obtained at a moderate price, 
will soon be built upon, and could not be bought without a much 
greater outlay of money. We are convinced that such a building 
must be built not long hence, and it can be done much cheaper 
now than in the future. 

These opinions led to the passage, on 22 April 1880, of Chapter 
222, Acts 1880, by which the Massachusetts Legislature granted the 

City of Boston a parcel of land on the southerly corner of Dartmouth 
and Boylston Streets, on condition that construction of a library 
building begin within three years. The plot had a frontage of 264 

feet on Boylston Street and 125 on Dartmouth Street, extending to 
a back alley, dignified by the title of "public passageway," that had 
been laid out to provide service entrances to houses that would front 
on Boylston and St. James (now Blagden) Streets. The Harvard 
Medical School was then raising money for the new building that 
it completed in 1883 on the adjacent Boylston and Exeter Street 
corner lot, while Samuel N. Brown's house already occupied the 
corner of Dartmouth and St. James Streets. As the lot granted by 
the Commonwealth appeared unduly restricted, the City Council 
authorized the purchase of a sufficient number of lots fronting on 
St. James Street, to make the proposed site nearly square, provided 
Harvard University would agree to closing the back alley that bi- 
sected it. Harvard was cooperative, but, as the owners of the Brown 
house were not, the Legislature empowered the City, by Chapter 
143, Acts 1882, to take the land if necessary. 


With a site thus In hand, only the problem of planning a suitable 
building remained, but that proved so protracted an undertaking 
that on 21 April 1883 the Legislature, by Chapter 141, Acts 1883, 
generously extended for another three years the time limit by which 
construction must begin. The 1880 Examining Committee, recog- 
nizing that the chief defect of the Boylston Street library was the 
sacrifice of all other considerations to the monumental appearance 
of Bates Hall, urged that 

The new building should contain numerous moderate-sized rooms 
and wide corridors, both well lighted and not too high-studded, in 
some of which there should be conveniences for students who, 
under special circumstances, should be allowed access to them. 
The waiting and reading rooms should be separated from the room 
for general delivery. In one of the reading-rooms there should be 
a reference library, in which, under proper conditions, every one 
should be permitted to take down and consult books at pleasure. 
The present building could then be used in the place of the Lower 
Hall, and the South End Branch for the storing and delivery of 
popular books, and for a reading-room of periodical literature. It 
should be borne in mind, in making plans for the new building, 
that fitness must not give place to show. 

The Trustees, reporting in June 1881 that they had requested the 
City Council to permit them to consult the City Architect, George A. 

Clough, outlined their theories of a functional library. 

No elegant edifice is to be designed in which the books are to be 
deposited in conformity to the architectural or ornamental struc- 
ture of the building; but it should be erected over the books, the 
arrangement and classification of which for convenience of use 
must determine the form and details of its great hall, in which 
they must necessarily be stored, and thus outline the walls of the 
building. The other conditions of the Library can easily be fash- 
ioned to conform to this first necessity . . . The Boylston-street 
structure is one of the ornaments of the city, externally and in- 
ternally, but is a singular instance of inconvenient and costly con- 
struction. It was, however, built upon such information and knowl- 
edge as were accessible at the time, . . . but the theories upon 
which it was based have not withstood the proof of service . . . 
No similar edifice can meet the present and coming wants of the 
institution, and it is to be hoped that none such will be attempted. 


Clough was a competent architect, whose most notable work for the 
City was the recently completed English-High and Latin School on 
Warren Avenue and Montgomery Street, justly admired as the 
largest structure in the world then used for a free public school It 
was indeed so generously planned that the City Council, seeing 
pupils rattling about in its fifty-six rooms, instructed the Trustees 
of the Public Library to consider the fitness of the building for their 

In compliance with this order of 9 March 1882, the Trustees 
studied the problem with Henry Van Brunt co-architect with Wil- 
liam R. Ware of Memorial Hall at Harvard College and concluded 
on 2 May, by a vote of six to one, that it was unsuitable. As the dis- 
senting Trustee, William H. Whitmore the scholarly Chairman of 
the Boston Record Commissioners served notice of his intention 
to submit a minority report, it became clear "that in order to show 
more distinctly what was not wanted, it would be necessary to draw 
plans which would show approximately what was wanted/* The 
Trustees therefore called upon Van Brunt to submit plans for an 
adaptation of the school, and invited Clough to make drawings for 
"the first approximation towards an arrangement of a building" for 
the Copley Square site, clearly intending to demonstrate conclusively 
thereby the advantages of starting afresh rather than cobbling over 
an existing structure. The results were embodied in a report, signed 
by President Greenough on i August 1882, which restated the 
Trustees' conviction that the English-High and Latin School simply 
would not make a satisfactory library. 

Van Brunt's plans called for using the western half of the school 
for library purposes, constructing a book stack 123 feet long and 
30^ feet wide in the courtyard, and adding a wing fronting on 
Dartmouth Street for reading rooms and a new Bates Hall. This, he 
estimated, would provide accommodation for a million volumes at 
a cost not exceeding $250,000. Van Brunt further submitted a 
sketch for a building on the Copley Square lot, in which two six- 
story book stacks, each capable of receiving 476,280 volumes, were 
placed in the courtyard of a rectangular library with Bates HaU on 
the front, administrative offices on the back and small rooms for 
special collections along the sides, the whole linked together by in- 


ternal corridors and bridges connecting with the book stacks. No 
cost was estimated, dough's design for the Copley Square site in- 
voked a rectangular plan in which a stack, with capacity of 1,100,- 
ooo volumes, divided the interior in two courts and extended along 
the back. This building, which would cost about $450,000, occu- 
pied only part of the lot, leaving space for an addition that would 
house another 400,000 volumes. All these designs foreswore the 
great alcoved hall and copied the stack principle of a metal frame- 
work, carrying tier upon tier of compact shelving, that had been 
evolved by Van Brunt and Justin Winsor in the 1877 addition to 
Gore Hall at Harvard College. 

William H. Whitmore disagreed so completely with his colleagues 
that he independently persuaded Clough to draw plans for the con- 
version of the English-High and Latin School, and presented these 
to the City Council with a minority report. Whitmore contended 
that the entire school could be occupied as a library as it stood, with 
only the expense of fire-proofing, not exceeding $100,000, while a 
new schoolhouse could be built for $218,000. In Copley Square 
$200,000 would be required for taking the additional privately 
owned land on St. James Street, plus $450,000 for the building. 
Thus $332,000 could be saved by settling in the schoolhouse with- 
out further argument. The majority of the Trustees were in favor 
of the new Harvard stack principle; Whitmore saw no sense in It. 

To use a plain simile, it Is like a wire bottle-rack as compared 
with ordinary wooden shelves and bins. The gain is solely in space, 
but the objections to the plan are several. In the first place the 
books become merchandise. They are stacked, and must be re- 
moved to other rooms for use. The extra space thus required for 
those consultation-rooms must be put as an offset to the gain in 
the close stack. 

He much preferred the Idea of housing the books in the numerous 
schoolrooms, where, as in the Athenaeum, they could be seen and 


In the "stack system" no one but the officials can be allowed to see 
and handle the books; everything Is sacrificed to economy of space. 
But the student or the booklover regrets the necessity which de- 
prives him of the pleasure of seeing his treasures about him. The 


wisest student cannot carry all his facts in Ms head, and the sight 
of a book on a shelf adjacent to the one he is consulting may re- 
mind him of other authorities, or new fields of thought. Having, 
as I have shown, on two floors of the school building, four times 
the space required to shelve all our Bates Hall books, we can af- 
ford to combine the two systems represented in this vicinity by 
the College library and the Athenaeum library. In the one, the 
applicant examines a catalogue, orders a book, and it is brought; in 
the other he is free to range around the shelves, to stand entranced 
on a ladder, like Dominie Sampson, or to sit down at a table sur- 
rounded by as many books for reference as he may desire. 

Thus separate rooms might be assigned to every department of 
literature, with ample space not only for reading and writing but 
for shelving the next half century's probable accessions. Even if a 
stack were required, one could be built according to dough's plans 
and still not have the remodelling of the school cost over $250,000. 
Whitmore's final thrust was the question, "What can the City 

There must be a limit, both to the advantages of collecting books, 
and of the expense attendant thereon. Last year, out of $121,000 
spent on the Library, $25,500 were spent for books, and $2,000 

for binding. The remainder was used in making them available 
... It should be remembered that the Bates Hall Department, 
or Reference Library, is an enterprise quite apart from die public 
library usually established by a city or a town. It is mainly for the 
use of scholars and authors, and, however useful, is of value 
chiefly to those classes. The ideas of our present Trustees soar to a 
rivalry with the national libraries at London, Paris, Rome or Wash- 
ington. Elsewhere it taxes the revenues of a nation to maintain 
such a library; can our City incur the expense, or should it attempt 
so to do? 

Whitmore saw the alternatives of using the schoolhouse "as was," 
or being prepared in 1883 to take the first steps toward spending 
$650,000 in Copley Square. There was no doubt in his mind that 
the former was preferable. 

The majority and minority reports did not reach the City Council 
until 3 October 1882, and although the matter dragged through the 
winter, a decision against using the schoolhouse was reached by 
spring. On 14 April 1883 Mayor Palmer approved orders authoriz- 


ing special appropriations of $180,000 for the purchase of the addi- 
tional St. James Street lots and of $450,000 for the erection of a new 

library on Copley Square according to plans approved by the Trus- 
tees. At this juncture it was still anticipated that the Boylston Street 
building would be retained and remodelled for the Lower Hall 
popular circulation library; only the Bates Hall books were destined 
for Copley Square. Although Clough had already drawn preliminary 
plans, it did not occur to anyone to proceed without an open compe- 
tition for designs, in which anyone who could draw was welcome to 
try for a prize. The advertised requirements called for a three-story 
brick building with brown-stone trimmings, with seven-story iron 
book stack capable of containing at least 700,000 volumes. The 
first floor must contain separate rooms for the patent library, public 
documents, and periodicals; the second a large hall on the front of 
at least 7,500 square feet, a public catalogue room and offices, while 
on the third floor space was required for the ordering, receiving and 
catalogue departments, an art room and a photographic room. Some- 
where, although the floor was not specified, seven rooms had to be 
provided for special libraries and two for special students. Prizes of 
four, three, two and one thousand dollars each were offered for the 
best designs submitted before i June 1884. As these printed specifi- 
cations were not finally distributed until January 1884, the time 
allowed was subsequently extended to i August of that year. While 
the twenty sets of plans submitted were being studied individually 
by each Trustee, the Corporation Counsel concluded that the library 
board had no authority to make awards. This embarrassment re- 
mained an open question until i January 1885 when a new adminis- 
tration headed by Hugh O'Brien, entering on the first of his four 
terms as Mayor cut the knot by authorizing the Library Trustees 
together with the City Architect (who was by then Arthur H. Vinal) 
to award the prizes. 

Mr. VinaTs judgment coincided with the Trustees' as to the four 
best plans of the twenty. He also agreed with them "that no one of 
the plans is suitable to build on." Thus, in the typical manner of 
public architectural competitions, in which the absurdity of the re- 
quirements deterred really competent firms from entering, $10,000 
had been spent to no other result than wasting a year's time. In 


March 1885 Vinal was directed to prepare plans that would not only 
meet with the Trustees' approval but that could be carried out at a 
cost within the $450,000 loan authorized by the City. Time was 
pressing, for even with the generous extension allowed in 1883, it 
was still necessary to begin construction by April 1886 in order to 
hold title to the land granted by the Commonwealth. As further 
studies were made, it became apparent that, to stay within the sum 
appropriated, it would be possible only to provide for about twenty- 
five years' growth of the Bates Hall Library. Vinal was uncommonly 
slow in producing plans, and far from being either communicative 
or cooperative. Nobody seemed greatly pleased with his design, 
which Ralph Adams Cram then a devout young worshipper at the 
feet of H. EL Richardson described half a century later as "an 
example of what Richardson's own style could become at the hands 
of a sincere but incompetent disciple It was a chaos of gables, 
oriels, arcades and towers, all worked out in brownstone." But con- 
struction had to begin not later than 21 April 1886, and at 4: 18 
p.m. on that very day the first pile was driven! 

The Trustees requested Vinal on 20 July 1 886 to contract for the 
foundations of the building, and by 17 December $73,600.20 had 
already been spent. But, as Cram recalled It, f *by the time the designs 
were revealed, the real work of Richardson had had some effect on 
the enlightened sector of public opinion and there was a growl of 
rage and indignation." Professor T. M. Clarke of the Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology growled so specifically to President Green- 
ough that the Trustees spent much of December 1886 and January 
1887 reexamining VinaTs piling and foundation plans. Work had 
been suspended and the foundations covered for protection against 
the winter, when matters took an unexpected and dramatic turn. 
The Legislature intervened, by the passage on 10 March of Chapter 
60, Acts 1887, amending the act of incorporation of the Trustees 
of the Public Library so as to give them "full power and control 
of the design, construction, erection and maintenance of the central 
public library building, to be erected In the city of Boston." They 
were further empowered to select and employ architects of their 
choice, and supervise construction, with the sole proviso that work 
shall not be begun "until full general plans for the building shall 


have been prepared/' Thus the problem of the new building, re- 
moved from city politics and city architects, was, for better or worse, 
made the sole responsibility of the library board. The act accom- 
plishing this was said by Samuel A. B. Abbott to have been "started 
by the architects in order to put the matter into the charge of the 
trustees, so that the work and management could be better carried 
on than It had been/' Newspaper comments during the preceding 
months had emphasized the inpropriety of leaving the new library 
In the hands of the City Architect, as If it were a fire station or a 
tool house for storing equipment. Arthur Rotch, testifying at the 
legislative hearings on behalf of the Boston Art Club which had 
occupied its new house at Dartmouth and Newbury Streets in 1882 
made it clear that all members of the club, representing every 
branch of business and professional life, felt, quite as strongly as 
his fellow architects, "the keenest anxiety that this opportunity of 
making a building worthy of our far-famed Public Library should 
not be lost from the want of full and efficient powers on the part of 
the trustees of the Library, who alone are competent by study and 
experience to carry out this great work/ 7 Few "growls of rage and 
indignation" have led to as rapid and desirable results, for within 
the month McKim, Mead and White, the coming architectural firm 
of New York, had replaced Arthur H. Vinal. However this came 
about, one can only be grateful that the Legislature intervened and 
prevented a repetition of the Ineptitudes of the Boylston Street 

Charles Follen McKim, although a Pennsylvanian practicing in 
New York, was no stranger to Boston. He entered Harvard College 
with the class of 1870, but, after a year chiefly memorable for his 
performance in right field of the 1867 varsity baseball team, took 
off for Paris to study architecture. Returning to New York in June 
1870, he worked for a time In Gambrill and Richardson's office, 
engaged In part on the drawings for Trinity Church, Boston, which 
H. H. Richardson had been commissioned to design in July 1872. 
On leaving later that year to hang out his own shingle, he turned 
over this work to Stanford White, who subsequently in 1879 joined 
him and William Rutherford Mead in establishing the firm of 
McKim, Mead and White. The Newport Casino, designed by them 


in 1 88 1, had led to commissions for both country and town houses, 
of which the most striking was the group built for Henry Villard on 
the east side of Madison Avenue, between 5oth and 5ist Streets. 
McKim's second wife had been a Bostonian Julia Amory Apple- 
ton who died early in January 1887 while he was at work on his 
designs for the Algonquin Club in Commonwealth Avenue. He was 
therefore entirely at home in Boston, where he had numerous 

When the Trustees found themselves rid of Mr. Vinal and free 
to choose, they first considered Edward C. Cabot, who forty years 
earlier had built the present Boston Athenaeum at ioV2 Beacon 
Street. But before going further with him, Samuel A. B. Abbott, who 
greatly admired the Villard houses, hurried off to New York to con- 
sult McKim. They talked for four hours on Saturday, 19 March 
1887, and met again on Sunday to such purpose that Abbott asked 
McKim to meet his fellow Trustees, President Greenough and Pro- 
fessor Haynes, at the Brevoort the next day. McKim described this 
in his memorandum book as a "very successful interview." So suc- 
cessful, in fact, that the Trustees, at home again in Boston on the 
26th, voted to direct the President to make a contract with McKim, 
Mead and White, and to ask Mr. Cabot to defer any further action 
on library plans. Greenough and McKim signed the contract on the 
3oth, and on the same day a quorum of the Trustees approved it. 
William H. Whitmore remained unreconciled to the prospect of 
building in Copley Square. Having missed the 26 and 30 March 
meetings, he protested by letter on the 3ist against three members 
of the board having visited New York without having asked him and 
the Reverend James Freeman Clarke to join them, stating clearly 
but uncivilly: "I feel myself entirely released from any responsibility 
in regard to the construction of the building." He did not feel free, 
however, to refrain from impeding and harassing his colleagues 
whenever possible. 

The architectural problems facing McKim, Mead and White were 
complex. There was no precedent in the United States for a library 
of this size and character. Moreover, the site chosen was bordered 
by a singular variety of recent buildings, inspired by various aspects 
of the middle ages. The Romanesque masses of Richardson's Trinity 


Church dominated Copley Square from its commanding position at 
the east. To the north, an unobtrusive block of brick and brown- 
stone houses, broken by the low facade of the Second Church an 
academic exercise in the revival of English Gothic fronted on 

Boylston Street, while at the far corner, beyond Dartmouth Street, 
the north Italian Gothic campanile of Cummings and Sear's New 
Old South Church supplied a vertical accent that could not be ig- 
nored. Across the way Sturgis and Brigham had housed the new 
Museum of Fine Arts in one of those unhappy red brick and yellow 
terra cotta approximations of Gothic that make one wish that John 
Ruskin had never gone to Italy, while at the corner of Dartmouth 
Street and Huntington Avenue S. S. Pierce and Company sold their 
excellent groceries in a building that at once parodied Richardson's 
style and sought to recreate the picturesque roof lines of old Nurem- 
berg. Truly it was no easy matter to fill the vacant lot to the west 
with a structure that would have architectural quality of its own 
and still not swear at its motley and aggressive neighbors, while 
simultaneously creating for the first time in America "an ideal li- 
brary" within the confines of another man's foundations! 

Temperamentally Charles Pollen McKim was a man of the Renais- 
sance both in his exuberance and in his love for combining the arts 
of architecture, painting and sculpture. Remembering the European 
squares where buildings of many centuries and styles merge harmo- 
niously, he early determined to bring Copley Square out of the 
middle ages, while benefitting by the superb mountainous Trinity 
Church and the graceful tower of the New Old South. His biog- 
rapher, Charles Moore, thus described the early stages of McKim's 

As the problem presented itself to McKim's logical mind, there 
was first the straight line of Dartmouth Street, passing directly in 
front of the site and prolonged on either side an important thor- 
oughfare. The new building must recognize the street. It must 

also oppose itself to the irregular, vertical masses of Trinity. There- 
fore it must emphasize the horizontal lines, and thus by contrast 
itself enhance and be enhanced by its picturesque neighbor. More- 
over, in the community of dark and colored stone and brick, in 
which romantic characteristics prevailed, the Library must be 


white in color, severely simple in outline and classical in style. So, 
although comparatively small, it would hold its own among its 
motley neighbors. 

Although that decision was reached, a good year was required to 
produce a reasonable set of plans, for as McKim recalled the 

It took us about six months to lose our vanity in connection with 
the subject, and it took us six months more, having found out that 
we couldn't make a scheme which we felt would go down the pages 
of time and be enduring, to propose to the trustees what else could 
be done. 

It was, first of all, found necessary to abandon any idea of confine- 
ment to Vinal's existing foundations. In seeking suitable precedent 
for inspiration, McKim considered and rejected first the Louvre 
pavilion, then the Farnese Palace and finally Felix Duban's fagade 
of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Eventually Henri Labrouste's Biblio- 
theque Ste.-Genevieve appeared to provide a workable springboard, 
for as McKim recalled: 

We finally, however, settled upon a model for a library building, 
which we founded on the St. Genevieve Library, in Paris, which 
we recognized and believed to be the best type and the best scheme 
in its outward expression, and also in its arrangement. 

But although the Paris library, completed about forty years earlier, 
furnished a suggestion in masses and in locating a great hall with 
arched windows on the front of the second floor, McKim's design 
and details were very much his own. 

On 30 March 1888, a year to the day after signing the con- 
tract, the Trustees approved McKim, Mead and White's plans, and 
voted to go ahead with as much of the construction as appropria- 
tions already made by the City would permit. In mid-April plans 
and a plaster scale model were placed in the Old State House for 
public inspection and comment, and a series of heliotype reproduc- 
tions of drawings was issued as a supplement to the Trustees' thirty- 
seventh annual report. The plans proposed a rectangular granite 
building, the rear half of which was devoted to book stacks, sur- 
rounding an arcaded courtyard. A vaulted entrance hall gave upon a 


stairway of noble proportions which led to a new barrel-vaulted 
Bates Hall, 218 feet long, 42 feet wide and 50 feet high, which oc- 
cupied the entire front of the second floor, and whose great arched 
windows determined the character of the facade. This noble apart- 


ment bore no resemblance to its book-lined and alcoved predecessor 
in Boylston Street, for in McKim's preliminary sketch it was entirely 

free not only of bookcases but of chairs and tables. It suggested 
rather the hall of a great Roman bath with decorative elements of 
the Italian Renaissance superimposed. Its semi-circular ends, sepa- 
rated by low screens from the body of the haU, were designated for 
use as writing and catalogue rooms. Adjacent to the catalogue area, 
and accessible from the staircase, was a Delivery Room overlooking 


St. James Street; at the opposite Boylston Street end of the building 
was a large room for scientific periodicals and three rooms for spe- 
cial students. The area on the ground floor under Bates Hall and 
these rooms was, to the left of the entrance, assigned to the ordering 
and catalogue departments; to the right, space was provided for 
housing hound newspapers, maps and duplicates. Although the 
building appeared from the exterior to be only two stories high, a 
third floor, lighted from the courtyard, was provided for the accom- 
modation of the special libraries. The main outlines of the building 
were established in these drawings; it was only in matters of internal 
arrangement in the side and rear sections that important changes 
were made. Certain improvements of detail were achieved on the 
facades and in the courtyard arcades before construction, but Mc- 
Kon's strenuous year of planning had produced substantially the 
building that exists today. It is worth observing, as a straw in the 
wind, that although the plans called for an extremely elegant oval 
Trustees' Room, they showed no visible accommodation for the Li- 
brarian, who seemingly did not enter into anyone's calculations. 

The public exhibition of the plans was on the whole well received. 
While there were captious critics who likened the building to the 
old Beacon Hill Reservoir or a Roman market place superimposed 
upon Fort Independence, a contributor to the Transcript character- 
ized the drawings as "a revelation" and observed: 

The magnificence of the conception of the plan of the building 
carries one quite off one's feet. Laying out that great hall entirely 
across the front of the building was a stroke worthy of the great 
masters of architecture. Mr. Richardson would have loved that. 

Another correspondent expressed his feeling of "profound relief* 
that "there was no yielding to a current fashion for novelty or 
strangeness," and commented on "the Roman repose" and the sim- 
plicity and dignity of the design. The Boston Herald felt that "so 
far as the external appearance of the new building is concerned, 
it would be hard to raise adverse criticisms/' while the Boston Daily 
Advertiser observed that "when we consider the remarkable diver- 
sity of buildings already in Copley Square ... we begin to realize 
what a saving grace the simple Roman strength of this new library 


will be to that locality." Indeed, after fifty years' reflection, Ralph 
Adams Cram who loved Richardson's church wrote: 

No greater contrast could be imagined than that between Trinity 
Church and the new Library across the way. On the one hand, 
an almost brutal, certainly primitive, boldness, arrogance, power; 
on the other, a serene Classicism, reserved, scholarly, delicately 
conceived in all its parts, beautiful in that sense in which things 
have always been beautiful in periods of high human culture. 

With his plans for the library, McKim submitted a sketch for the 
improvement of Copley Square, so simple and so completely right as 
to be a work of genius. It required nothing more than to eliminate 
the triangular plots of mangy grass that quite unnecessarily marked 
the passage of Huntington Avenue, to pave the square and to place 
a simple Roman fountain in the center. It is a thousand pities that 
this scheme was never carried out, although it is still not too late to 
do so. 

Anyone could see that this monumental structure could not be 
built within the original $450,000 appropriation, of which after 
the payment for competition prizes, VinaTs abortive foundations, 
and more recent expenses about $358,000 remained. As the City 
Council wished to have some estimate, McKim was called upon to 
produce one within a week. The time was totally inadequate, par- 
ticularly as his plans were not completed in detail, but in response 
to pressure he cobbled up the best figures he could and on 23 April 
1888 reluctantly offered the sum of $1,165,955. This led to a vote 
of the City Council on 7 May, authorizing the Trustees to go ahead 
within that greatly increased limit. About this time, William W. 
Greenough, who was nearing his seventieth birthday, felt unable to 
cope with the increased obligations of construction and resigned 
from the board, and in June the Reverend James Freeman Clarke 
died. In their places former Mayor Frederick O. Prince and Phineas 
Pierce were appointed Trustees, while after a week's incumbency 
by Professor Haynes, Samuel A. B. Abbott, who had been the mov- 
ing spirit in employing McKim, Mead and White, was elected to 
the presidency. 

Proposals for the construction were advertised in July, and, after 
harassing tactics by William BL Whitmore, who continued tooth 


and nail opposition to everything, the bid of Woodbury and Leigh- 
ton was accepted on 23 July 1888. Wednesday, 28 November 1888, 
was fixed for the laying of the cornerstone. This ceremony, per- 
formed by Mayor Hugh O'Brien, was graced by the celebrated Dr. 
Oliver Wendell Holmes, who, by direct wire from the Muses, trans- 
mitted the following poem: 

Proudly beneath her glittering dome, 

Our three-hilled city greets the morn; 
Here freedom found her virgin home, 

The Bethlehem where her babe was born. 

The lordly roofs of traffic rise 

Amid the smoke of household fires; 
High o'er them in the peaceful skies, 

Faith points to heaven her clustering spires. 

Can freedom breathe if ignorance reign? 

Shall Commerce thrive where anarchs rule? 
Will Faith her half-fiedged brood retain, 

If darkening counsels cloud the school? 

Let in the light! from every age 

Some gleams of garnered wisdom pour, 
And, fixed on thought's electric page, 

Wait all their radiance to restore. 

Let in the light! on diamond mines 

Their gems invite the hand that delves, 

So learning's treasured jewels shine, 
Ranged on the alcove's ordered shelves. 

From history's scroll the splendor streams, 

From science leaps the living ray, 
Flashed from the poet's flowing dreams 

The opal fires of fancy play. 

Let in the light! these windowed walls 

Shall brook no shadowing colonnades, 
But day shall flood the silent halls 

Till o'er yon hills the sunset fades. 

Behind the ever-open gate 

No pikes shall fence a crumbling throne, 

No lackeys cringe, no courtiers wait, 
This palace is the people's own! 


Heirs of our narrow-girdled past, 

How fair the prospect we survey, 
Where howled unheard the wintry blast 

And rolled unchecked the storm-swept bay! 

These chosen precincts, set apart 
For learned toil and holy shrines, 

Yield willing homes to every art 

That trains or strengthens or refines. 

Here shall their sceptred mistress reign, 

Who heeds her meanest subjects' call, 
Sovereign of all their vast domain 

The queen the handmaid of them all. 

The arts were indeed provided with willing homes, for, as the con- 
cept of a "palace for the people" gradually replaced in the Trustees' 
minds the earlier theory of a functional library "erected over the 
books/' architectural painting and sculpture entered into McKim's 
plans. The day after his first talk with Abbott in March 1 887 he and 
Ms partner, Stanford White, had spent Sunday afternoon walking 
with Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Their thoughts had early turned to 
decorative adjuncts to the proposed great building, and McKim's 
plans soon involved bronze sculptured groups, flanking the entrance, 
by Saint-Gaudens, and a pair of monumental Siena marble lions on 
the main staircase by his brother, Louis. Although Stanford White 
was rather inclined to procure European painters for the decoration 
of the public rooms, Augustus Saint-Gaudens insisted that there 
were "strong men of American fiber who should be employed/' 
Thus, although Puvis de Chavannes described with an engaging 
stammer in Herbert Small's ten cent Handbook of the New Public 
Library in Boston as "almost, if not quite, the most distinguished of 
living French painters" was persuaded to decorate the main stair- 
case, John Singer Sargent and Edwin A. Abbey were also brought 
into the scene. McKim, White and Saint-Gaudens clearly saw, in the 
words of Charles Moore, "the possibilities opening before them for 
the creation of the greatest combined work of the architect, painter 
and sculptor ever achieved in America up to that time." Abbott, 
whose taste and enthusiasm often outran his tact and discretion, 
readily fell in with their plans; the role of patron suited him, and, 


as he was giving his time without compensation he could readily 
persuade himself that it was all in the public interest. When veter- 
ans of the 2nd and 2oth Massachusetts Infantry Associations pro- 
posed erecting memorials to the valor of their Civil War comrades 
in the library, it was clear that Louis Saint-Gaudens's staircase lions 
were just the thing. That solved one problem, but, although formal 
contracts were postponed and sources of funds remained vague, 
Sargent was informally commissioned to decorate the third floor 
gallery and Abbey the Delivery Room. McKim brought Augustus 
Saint-Gaudens and the two painters to Boston in May 1890, and a 
dinner with the Trustees clinched the matter. In various summers 
Abbott went abroad, usually with McKim, studying details of Euro- 
pean libraries, seeking sources of marble, or looking into possibilities 
of decoration. In the hope that Whistler might be persuaded to deco- 
rate the Boylston Street end of Bates Hall, an agreeable dinner a 
quatre was arranged at Foyot's in Paris by Sargent, for himself, 
McKim, Abbott and Whistler. It was a charming evening. Whistler 
responded, drew sketches on the tablecloth, and his companions 
marvelled. But the tablecloth went into the wash, nothing tangible 
came of the meeting, and Bates Hall is free from peacocks. 

While all these exciting plans were being made, construction pro- 
gressed and expenses mounted. Early in 1889 the Trustees were rid 
of William H. Whitmore's opposite-minded and dampening com- 
pany. On 10 January he sent a letter to the Mayor stating that <f he 
was entirely opposed to the erection of the new library building, 
mainly on account of its cost," and, as he felt that the board should 
be united, offered his resignation. It was accepted, and William R. 
Richards was appointed in his place. This was just as well, for, al- 
though Whitmore was an accomplished scholar and a highly intelli- 
gent man, his economical views and Abbott's expansiveness could 
never have been reconciled. As the decision for a monumental palace 
had been made, it was as well to carry it out wholeheartedly. 

To provide the funds necessary to complete the building accord- 
ing to McKim's estimate, the Legislature, by Chapter 68, Acts 1889, 
empowered the City of Boston to issue bonds for one million dollars, 
outside the legal limit of indebtedness. This act, passed on i March 
1889, provided that, before the maturity of this loan, the Trustees 


should sell the old Boylston Street Library and the land on which it 

stood, turning in the proceeds toward the redemption of the bonds. 
The optimism of McKim's estimate of the preceding year was soon 

apparent, for the Trustees in their thirty-eighth report made it clear 


that the amount of loan was less than they had requested, and that 
it would not be enough to enable them to complete the building. In 
fact, by the end of 1890 it was estimated that the total cost, includ- 
ing shelving but no other furniture, would be $2,218,865. To show 
that they were not the only body guilty of underestimating costs the 
Trustees appended a list of contract prices and actual costs of four- 
teen public buildings constructed since 1885. The parallels were 
striking, but nobody else had achieved quite as resounding a mis- 


calculation as the Trustees of the Public Library, Once again the 
City Council responded, and the Legislature, by Chapter 324, Acts 
1891, permitted the issue of another million dollars worth of bonds 
outside the authorized city debt limit. 

With the pains and expense that were lavished upon the new 
building, it was disheartening to find it unsympathetically viewed 
by the library profession. During Judge Chamberlain's term of office 
the Public Library had not maintained the position of unquestioned 
leadership it had held in Jewett's day and in Winsor's. There had 
been frequent criticism, both deserved and unfounded, but matters 
came to a head in September 1890 when the American Library As- 
sociation met in Boston. During that meeting William F. Poole, then 
based in Chicago, spoke his mind plainly about the new building. 
He claimed first of all that Bates Hall, "with throngs of visitors com- 
ing to pass comments on the beautiful architecture and frescoes," 
would be as unsuitable for quiet study and reading as the street 
outside in Copley Square. He then disagreed with the theory of 
isolating books in a great stack, and after citing other grievances 
said, "Here you will have, indeed, a beautiful facade, but not a 
library building/* In attempting to explain how this all came about, 
Poole continued: 

Mr. Greenough acknowledges that he consulted no librarians, for, 
he says, they are inexperienced persons with bees in their bonnets. 
**I had the advice of architects," he adds, "and did as well as I 
could/' The result is you have a library building, in the construc- 
tion of which librarians, who are generally supposed to know 
something about such matters, have not had a thing to say. 

In an effort to draw attention away from these Cassandra-like re- 
marks, the chairman called upon Judge Chamberlain, obviously 
hoping for refutation. Instead the former librarian merely confirmed 
Poole's allegations by saying: "I acknowledge our building is merely 
the library building of die architect. No librarian, so far as I know, 
has been consulted." In a later interview with the Advertiser he 
admitted, "I had no knowledge of the plans until they were sub- 
stantially determined upon." 

Abbott reacted so vehemently and discourteously to Poole's criti- 


cism In the Boston Herald of 20 September 1890 that there was 

some ground for Poole's rejoinder: 

Mi. Abbott has much to learn before he sets up business as a li- 
brary expert, but there is still hope for him. I commend him to a 
rigid course of training under the instruction of the accomplished 
persons employed in die Boston Public Library, and recommend 
that he put his feet in a cold bath and apply a bandage of ice 
water to his head whenever he assumes a controversial attitude on 
those matters; and finally, that he give his overworked expression, 
that the statement of his opponent "is unqualifiedly and absolutely 
false," a vacation, 

Much of the ink spilled during the building of the Public Library 
makes one wish that Bliss Perry had not waited until his ninetieth 
year to send a very brief letter to the Mail Bag of the Boston Herald, 
'Very few men and no women write well when they are angry/' He 
might so well have sent it sixty years earlier and shamed various 
angry men out of committing their recriminations to print. 

Prior to the granting of the second million dollar loan, the City 
Council held hearings at which Abbott and McEim testified con- 
cerning the cost of the building. On the basis of these statements, 
the City Government Committee on the Library Department sub- 
mitted on 13 April 1891 a report (Document 54 1891) which 
concluded with the statement that if the building could be com- 
pleted for the estimated sum of $985,000 

. . . the city will have a building of rare beauty "a palace for 
the people," built at a cost not more extravagant than that of 
many other public buildings. 

That should have ended the matter, and the building might have 
been rapidly completed had not political tangles, inspired by irre- 
sponsible journalism, complicated the scene. In November 1891 the 
Boston News began beating a drum and inventing scandals that did 
not exist. Day after day, with that peculiarly mealy-mouthed hypoc- 
risy by which journalists of a certain type invoke the public good 
as a cloak for tricks aimed at increased circulation, the News at- 
tacked the library. First it was claimed that the admirable Milford 
granite used in the library f agade was so rotten that stones had to be 


stuck together with shellac. To demonstrate the wickedness of the 
"Public Library Octopus/' a reporter stole three inch-square cubes 
of waste granite, sent them to the Watertown Arsenal to be tested 
for crushing strength, and published an Army report of findings 
that proved nothing. After exhausting the granite theme, the News 
looked for new outrages to denounce. They celebrated New Year's 
Day 1892 by publishing "on excellent authority" that the Trustees 
"have omitted to make any provision in the new building for the 
extensive collection of books now situated in the lower hall of the 
library building on Boylston Street." The Boston Daily Globe, in its 
role of "the people's paper," took up the cry on the 4th by pointing 
out the indignities to which the Lower Hall readers "the people 
who are not overblessed with this world's goods" will be submitted 
if they 

. . . have to go into the enormous Bates Hall along with everyone 
else, and rub elbows with the Beacon st. swell, the teacher and all 
the varying classes of people who are now accommodated in Bates 
Hall, upstairs, and are away from the plain people, who are glad 
to avail themselves of the "lower hall." 

The Globe painted a tear-jerking picture of the poor teamster whose 
hour of leisure would be ruined by having "to brush against fine 

ladies and rub elbows with men who are spick and span in their 
fashionable clothes/' Even the Boston Evening Transcript joined 
in the fray by printing, on 9 January, an article by Arthur W. Bray- 
ley describing some of the odd personalities that Joshua Bates did 
not have in mind when reflecting upon the educational value of a 

Probably the most original of the habitues of the reading room 
is a German by birth, his English being very bad. Every evening 
at 6:30 he enters the Lower Hall, walks over to the registration 
desk and looks at the clock. He then crosses the room where hangs 
the thermometer, at which he takes a good look. Turning, he 
makes a line for the thermometer in the reading-room and reads 
the condition of the temperature. If he is satisfied, all is well; if 
not, he expresses his disapproval very decidedly. He then calls for 
the Pilot and takes his favorite seat in the front of the room. At 
about eight o'clock he is asleep. He has not missed an evening 
since 1880. Another celebrity may be noticed among the readers 


with a large handkerchief or nightcap on Ms head. The "trio" is 

composed of an Irishman, Englishman and Scotchman, who have 
for over ten years spent the time between Deer Island and the li- 
brary. One of these walks by the aid of two canes and is generally 
the first to make his appearance at the room. He calls for the Lon- 
don Tablet and occupies a comfortable comer. First one and then 
the other member of the set comes in, who in turn call for the 
Dublin and London papers and are soon seated together, where 
they read and discourse hour after hour, the only intermission 
being when called by nature to nourish their physical being, when 
they saly forth on an expedition of "grabbing." This will continue 
for two or three weeks, when they begin to show signs of inebria- 
tion, which indication grows stronger each day, until first one and 
then the other disappears "down Duck," only to make their reap- 
pearance after their expired term of office, wearing clothes on 
which the creases made by long confinement in the wardrobe of 
the island institution are still fresh. 

All this hullaballoo sprang from some advance intimation that the 
1891 Examining Committee had some doubts about the wisdom of 
merging the more popular part of the library with Bates Hall. Their 
report, when later published, contained only a mild suggestion that 
the old scheme of division be continued in the new building, but 
the false scent started brought a pack of journalists rushing in full 
cry. They in turn created such a clamor that Mayor Matthews, on 
4 January 1892, sent a letter to the Trustees expressing his surprise 
at hearing for the first time on the previous day that the Trustees 
f< had made no provision in the new building for the delivery of 
books, and that it was their intention to retain the Public Library 
on Boylston Street in addition to the new one when completed." He 
asked what truth there might be in the statement, and requested 
various facts and figures. 

A more ill-founded rumor could hardly have wasted a chief magis- 
trate's time, for McKim's first plans in 1888 had provided a spa- 
cious room for the delivery of books, and Chapter 68, Acts 1889, in 
appropriating the first million dollars for the completion of the new 
building had specifically required that the Boylston Street library 
be sold. The Trustees promptly denied the rumor, and in their 1891 
report, adopted on 29 January 1892, amplified their excellent rea- 
sons for proposing to merge the two parts of the library. In com- 


menting upon the Examining Committee's recommendation, they 
wrote : 

What is now called the 'lower hall" in the old library, was es- 
tablished soon after the Library was founded, as a room connected 
with the main hall of the Library where books of a popular char- 
acter would be more easily accessible to the public. For many 
years there was no division of the catalogue of the two rooms, and 
probably there would never have been a division had they not been 
located upon different floors. The separation was the result of an 
effort to relieve persons desiring books in the lower hall from the 
inconvenience of mounting stairs to consult the catalogue which 
was then in the Bates hall. 

In the new building no such inconvenience will exist; all books 
in the library, which will contain a copy of every one now in 
the lower hall, will easily be accessible to the public. Those who 
now use the lower hall will find ample accommodation in the new 
Bates hall, which is designed as a general reading-room for the 
whole people, and not for any special class. In other parts of the 
building there will be provided for students desiring to prosecute 
any particular line of research, almost three times as much space 
as is contained in the new Bates hall. While it is possible in the 
new building to provide, without alteration of the present plan, a 
room with ample accommodations for the collection in the lower 
hall, with separate and convenient access from the street, the 
trustees do not propose, at present, to set apart separate accom- 
modations for that collection. If experience show that they are in 
error, and that the public desire a separation of classes, future 
trustees will be able to provide that separation without changing 
the present arrangement of the building. The present trustees, 
however, are of the opinion that the new building is built for the 
accommodation of all the citizens of Boston, without reference to 
so-called "class" or condition; and they are further of the opinion 
that the new Bates hall will not be too good for the users of the 
present lower haU, and that they would be false to their trust if 
they made any regulation which might result in an apparent sepa- 
ration of the poorer users of the Library from the richer. 

There was, indeed, no logic in perpetuating a division that tad 
sprung from pure architectural convenience in another building, 
and which was, moreover, creating an implication that certain 
groups of readers were second-class citizens. One respects the Trus- 


tees for insisting that, in a public library maintained by the City for 
the free use of all inhabitants, there was no ground for dividing 

reading rooms and multiplying entrances in the manner of a Brit- 
ish pub. 

These clear statements only scotched the rumors, for on 2 Febru- 
ary Mayor Matthews served notice of his intention to investigate the 
whole subject of the expense and convenience of the new building 
before authorizing the expenditure of any part of the latest loan. He 
undertook, with the Corporation Counsel and the City Architect 
(then E. M. Wheelwright), to sit as a Commission of Inquiry. By 
this time the facades, interior masonry walls and fireproofed floors 
were completed; the tile roof was in place; Bates Hall was progress- 
ing, and Louis Saint-Gaudens's noble lions were already installed 
on the stairway. Construction had already been delayed while nego- 
tiations for the second million dollar loan were in progress during 
the spring of 1891; it was to be even further retarded by Mayor 
Matthews's unwillingness to have that loan used. The Trustees in 
April furnished a full report of all expenditures and contracts, in- 
cluding the verbal agreements for decorations with Abbey and Sar- 
gent, and waited patiently for many months before receiving permis- 
sion to proceed with the completion of the building. 

During this interval there occurred one of the small comedies that 
punctuated the construction of the library. McKim had sought to 
relieve the severity of the granite facades by introducing decorative 
carvings and inscriptions, replete with historical and literary allu- 
sions. In the spandrels of the window arches were round medallions, 
carved by Domingo Mora, derived from the marks or trade devices 
of the earliest printers and booksellers, while below the great arched 
windows memorial tablets were carved with the names of literary 
men, artists, scientists, statesmen and soldiers, which served not 
only as decorative relief but constituted a kind of roll of honor. The 
names were intermingled, without regard for century or subject, 
in a kind of pleasant hodge-podge that suggested the diversity of 
riches to be found within. Then, on 27 May 1892 the Boston Eve- 
ning Record began screaming that there was more to these names 
than met the eye, for at the left of the Dartmouth Street facade this 
combination occurred: 







The Record's shocking "discovery" amounted simply to the fact that 
the architects, like certain scribes in medieval scriptoria, had amused 
themselves by working an acrostic of their names into an inscription 
primarily conveying an unrelated meaning. The Trustees took the 
matter as the harmless joke that it was, but the Record magnified it 
out of all proportion : 

The Public Library will have that architect's adv. wiped off, or 
The Record will find out why. 

A correspondent to the Transcript proposed that 





be carved on two of the vacant tablets; other wags suggested acrostics 
of the Trustees' names, and comment became so heated that the 
offending inscription was unfortunately erased. 

Early in July 1892 the Trustees reminded Mayor Matthews that 
his investigation had already delayed the completion of the building 
by five months, and tactfully suggested that enough time had been 
wasted. In reply, the Mayor proposed eliminating certain orna- 
mental work, bronze doors and statuary, to effect a saving of two 
hundred thousand dollars. This notion was extremely unwelcome, 
but as the chief necessity was to get on with the building, the Trus- 
tees compromised sufficiently to make advertising for bids for final 
contracts possible in September. Eventually, through a memorial 
signed by Richard M. Hunt and other distinguished artists from 
other cities, and through the interest of such citizens as Major 
Henry L, Higginson and Professor Charles S. Sargent, Mayor Mat- 
thews came to see the desirability of decorative elements and ceased 


his opposition. Thus on 28 October 1892 President Abbott was au- 
thorized to contract with Augustus Saint-Gaudens for two groups of 
statuary to be placed on pedestals flanking the main entrance, at a 
cost of $50,000, "and to reduce the verbal contracts for decorative 
painting entered into about November yth, 1 890 with Messrs. John S. 
Sargent and Edwin A. Abbey to writing." In May 1893 a contract 
was authorized with Puvis de Chavannes for the decoration of the 
main staircase, thus bringing to fruition negotiations begun by 
McKim and Abbott during their European travels in 1891. Private 
generosity supplemented public funds to allow two young Boston 
painters to have a share in the decoration of the library. In 1891 
Dr. Harold Williams had proposed a subscription among friends 
for work by John Elliott son-in-law of Julia Ward Howe and 
two years later he was assigned a ceiling in the Patent (later to be- 
come the Teachers' Section of the Children's) Room, while Arthur 
Astor Carey made possible the decoration of a "Venetian Lobby" on 
the second floor by Joseph Lindon Smith. Dr. Charles G. Weld gave 
a bronze statue of Sir Harry Vane by Frederic Macmonnies, now 
in an entrance vestibule niche. In July 1894 Abbott was empowered 
to excute a contract with James A. McNefll Whistler to decorate the 
wall at the northeasterly end of Bates Hall for the sum of $15,000, 
and in September a $25,000 contract was authorized with Daniel 
Chester French for three pairs of bronze doors for the main en- 
trance. Thus a signal array of the ablest contemporary artists were 
brought into the service of the library to join their talents with Mc- 
Kim's in creating a harmony of the arts that had never previously 
been attempted in the United States upon such a scale. 

The contributions of these painters and sculptors only enhanced, 
rather than created, the beauty of the building, for one cannot praise 
too highly McKim's feeling for space, his sense of proportion, and 
his uncanny flair for texture. Royal Cortissoz rightly said that to 

building materials were what pigments are to the painter; he 
handled them with the same intensely personal feeling for their 
essential qualities that a great technician brings to the manipula- 
tion of Ms colors, and he left upon his productions the same auto- 
graphic stamp. 


The extraordinary beauty of the rouge antique marble of the door- 
ways In the Delivery Room was due to no happy accident of a con- 
tractor, while anyone who studies with care the subtle gradations 
of color in the Siena marble of the great staircase will detect in them 
the same "autographic stamp." Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who first 
saw the staircase finished in November 1894, in company with his 
brother, expressed a feeling that has been echoed for more than sixty 
years when he wrote McKim: 

We were completely bowled over by it; it Is a splendid piece of 
work and even as it is, without the paintings of Puvis, I know 
nothing to equal It. 

Perhaps today one might say that even with the paintings of Puvis 
there is nothing to equal It, for the subtlety of Charles Pollen Mc- 
Klm's design and textures has outlived the appeal of his coadjutor's 

Many of these decorative projects required years for their comple- 
tion; some never materialized. Negotiations with Whistler went so 
badly that by the spring of 1895 the offer of a contract was with- 
drawn, to his considerable disgust. Although Saint-Gaudens held 
the groups of figures for the main entrance more at heart than any 
other work he had undertaken, he was never able to complete them. 
His first plan was for a male personification of Labor, between fe- 
male figures signifying Science and Art on one pedestal, with a male 
likeness of Law between female Religion and Force (or Power) on 
the other. He went about his commission so conscientiously as to 
set up painted reproductions of the figures in front of the library 
fagade to determine the scale. Eventually the design changed to 
Law, flanked respectively by Executive Power and by two figures 
personifying Love for one pedestal, with the other devoted to Sci- 
ence, with Labor and Art (In the guise of Music) as the subsidiary 
figures. Although Saint-Gaudens when he returned to Paris a sick 
man in 1897 continued to work In his rue de Bagneux studio upon 
these plaster models, they proved too exacting an assignment. He 
did, however, carve in pink Knoxville marble and Install over the 
three arches of the main entrance, panels depicting the seals of the 
Library, the City, and the Commonwealth. The library device, 


originally suggested by Kenyon Cox, consists of two nude boys, hold- 
ing the torches of learning, and acting as supporters to a shield 
which bears an open book and the dates of founding and incorpora- 
tion of the library. Above is the motto OMNIUM LUX CIVIUM, 
while in the background are dolphins and laurel branches. This 
attractive composition, although of the most idyllic and high-minded 
nature, was presently denounced as a major indecency. Reporters, 
who since the discovery of the acrostic had given the library facade 
their most devoted attention, were immediately scandalized by the 
innocent nakedness of the small boys. The Boston Evening Record 
of 10 February 1 894, under the headline "WIPE OUT THE BLOT! 
The Women and Children of Boston Have Rights Even at the Pub- 
lic Library/' told the sad tale of a "well known business man/' whose 
sixteen-year-old son, "a pure-minded lad, who has seen statues of 
antique casts in the Art Museum," cried in anguish as he observed 
that Saint-Gaudem's boys lacked fig-leaves, "See that thing they have 
put up there, papa, isn't it horrible? I should think they would be 
ashamed to put such a thing on the Public Library." Because of 
the acute eyesight of this "bright, clean Boston boy," the Record 
clamored: "This indecency must not remain to affront people who 
wish to enter the building" Although the Record continued to de- 
nounce "the thing on the Public Library/' called for workmen with 
chisels, and even went so far as to describe the entire building as a 
"stench and an eye-sore," its crusade was too ridiculous to succeed 
even in Boston, Saint-Gaudens's seal remained, with its boys neither 
clothed nor castrated. 

After the autumn of 1892 construction progressed without fur- 
ther interruption, and in two years' time the building was completed. 
Some small collections were moved there during the fall of 1894; 
the transfer of the bulk of the library began on 14 December 1894, 
and was completed on 27 January 1895. The Boylston Street library 
finally closed its doors to the public on 24 January. 

Externally in design, and internally so far as the placing of the 
courtyard, staircase, Bates Hall and the Delivery Room were con- 
cerned, the library occupied in 1895 was substantially as Charles 
McKim had designed it in 1888. During the long years of construc- 
tion, however, important modifications had been made in the use 


of the remaining space. The great book stack, originally designed to 
occupy the rear half of the building, was reduced practically in half 
and concentrated in the southwesterly quarter to provide space for 
the bindery and newspaper room. These were accessible either from 
the northwest corner of the courtyard, or by a separate entrance 
from the Boylston Street fagade, in the center of which was an en- 
closed driveway by which carriages might deposit their passengers 
dry-shod either at this stairway or at arched doors giving upon the 
courtyard arcade. The ordering and catalogue departments remained 
on the first floor, to the left of the entrance, as originally planned, 
but the corresponding rooms on the right were reassigned to bound 
and current periodicals. The monumental oval Trustees' Room open- 
ing out of the Delivery Room had given place to a Librarian's Office 
and a working area which contained the terminus of an ingenious 
miniature railway, whose cable cars brought from the adjacent 
stacks the books requested by slips whisked through pneumatic 
tubes. In an entresol overhead the Trustees were pleasantly accom- 
modated with a meeting room having green velvet walls over Empire 
wainscoating, an ante-room, and an open loggia, occupying the 
center of the Rlagden Street fagade. On the third floor, opening out 
of the sandstone gallery to be decorated by Sargent, were rooms for 
music, fine arts, and the Barton-Ticknor libraries, while around the 
three sides of the court were high, well-lighted students' rooms with 
alcoves for the housing of special collections. 

The building of the library had been a long straggle. It had 
involved battles with public indifference, municipal economy, po- 
litical maneuvering, bad taste, the temperament of artists, the fixed 
ideas of artisans, the criticism of professional librarians, the unsym- 
pathetic and often unfair tirades of journalists, and, above all, with 
a lack of popular understanding of the purposes of the Trustees. 
One might more accurately say, with the purposes of Samuel A. B. 
Abbott, who was, as President, the sole survivor of the board charged 
with the task of construction by the 1887 Legislature. He was an 
irascible, domineering man who wanted his own way, bitterly re- 
sented criticism, and, when replying to it, put himself in the worst 
possible light. Yet it was Abbott who chose McKim, who worked 
intimately with him through all the myriad details, upheld his vision 


consistently, and was rewarded by the masterpiece of a great archi- 
tect that, after more than sixty years, does honor to Boston. Now that 
the antagonisms of the movement have been forgotten, one can only 
be grateful to Abbott, to whom the tribute paid the Trustees by 
the 1894 Examining Committee is uniquely applicable. 

The Trustees are to be congratulated that they are reaching a 
termination of long, arduous, and varied services connected with 
the new building, and that such a noble end crowns their work. 
Thanks are due to them, not only from Boston, but from all who 
esteem truth and propriety in design, for their choice of style. It 
is difficult to avoid following a fashion in architecture as well as 
in other matters, but they have not yielded to a passing fancy for 
the unusual, and for styles not of the greatest ages of art and his- 

They have spared us an essay in archaeology, and have given us, 
especially in the interior, grace and dignity, in a style associated 
with one of the grand eras of human progress. It is the majestic 
and beautiful style of Italy, in the great period of the revival of 
learning, as well as of art, and of the foremost artists and dis- 
coverers in our modern world. They would feel at home in such 
an edifice, and the best of them seldom walked through a better 
vestibule and up a better staircase. The august and venerable prel- 
ate in the Vatican of our time could hardly find a courtyard so 
noble for the solace of his meditative promenades. Every person 
who enters the delivery-room visits one of the exquisite library 
rooms of the world, and reaches it without a stormy voyage. 

In a variety of departments, in value and completeness as well 
as in size, we have here one of the great libraries of the world. 
Honorable public service and distinguished achievement have, for 
more than forty years, characterized the Board of Trustees, and 
to-day, amid immense failures sadly marking our country, we can 
offer congratulations, with full hope and confidence in the future, 
for a grand success, secured for civilization as well as for Boston. 

More than fifty years later David McCord expressed the same view 
with a poet's succinctness when he wrote of the library: 

Meanwhile, like St. Paul's in London it continues to dominate the 
square that bears an artist's name and its immortality seems as- 



In addition to the annual reports of the Trustees there are several 
separate pamphlets relating to the planning of the new library, such 
as The Public Library of Boston, Report of a hearing before the 
Legislate Committee on Harbor and Lands on the petition of the 
City of Boston for a lot of new land on the Back Bay for a site for 
the Public Library (Boston, 1880); Report by the Trustees of the 
Public Library on the fitness of the English High and Latin School 
Building for the uses of the Public Library (Boston, 1882); and 
the Minority Report of William H. Whitmore (^One of the Trustees 
of the Public Library^ on the fitness of the English High and Latin 
School Building for the uses of the Public Library (Boston, 1882). 

The Trustees' votes concerning a new library from 1879 to 1895 
are conveniently abstracted in a volume in the Trustees' Room 
labelled New Library Building Extracts (T.R. 25.15). 

The McKlm, Mead and White drawings for the Copley Square 
building are to be found in a Supplement to Thirty-Seventh Annual 
Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, 1889. Charles Moore, 
The Life and Times of Charles Pollen McKim (Boston: Houghton 
Mifflin Company, 1929), pp. 62-94, deals with the building, while 
Ralph Adams Cram, My Life in Architecture (Boston: Little, 
Brown and Company, 1936), pp. 3235, indicates its effect upon a 
young architect of the time. Herbert Small, Handbook of the Neiv 
Public Library in Boston (Boston, 1895) describes the building in 


The New Library under 
Herbert Putnam 

The dominant purpose in the administration of 
a library is to have the books used, and used as 
freely as possible, consistent with their safety. 

The fine thing about Boston is that when a mat- 
ter of this sort comes up, it always proves to be a 
burning question. 


DURING the first week of February 1895 the doors of the new 
library fortified by placards requesting all who entered to 
wipe their feet were open to allow Bostonians to come in from the 
slush of Copley Square and inspect the building. Although the 
mural decorations were not in place and carpenters' hammers were 
still heard, the books had been moved from Boylston Street and visi- 
tors, during these days, had a foretaste of the conveniences that 
would soon be available. Instead of seats for 200 readers, there was 
place for 900. In the old library 300 reference volumes had been 
on open shelves. Here there were six thousand in Bates Hall that 
might be taken down and read, as if at home, without the interven- 
tion of an attendant, and 5,800 that might similarly be consulted 
in the Patent Library. With only the simple formality of signing a 
register, 91,540 volumes were available for direct consultation on 
the Special Libraries floor, while in addition, a Children's Room- 
dreamed of by Justin Winsor, but never achieved for want of space 
placed three thousand books within the unhampered reach of 
young readers. It offered an extraordinary contrast to Boylston 


Street, and suggested that an institution whose 628,297 volumes 
exceeded only by the Library of Congress gave it the second place 
in the country at last had a dignified and commodious home. More- 
over the use of this admirable building was to be directed by a 
skilful and inventive Librarian. 

More than seventeen years had passed since the Sunday Herald 
had published its biting little fable about the ship that went to sea 
without any captain. During fourteen of those years two learned and 
conscientious men had held the nominal title of Librarian without 
either the responsibilities or the prerogatives of command. When 
Herbert Putnam took over on n February 1895 the ship had its 
first real captain since the departure of Justin Winsor. Few appoint- 
ments have caused so much general satisfaction, for the lack of 
competent direction had caused grave misgivings in past years. The 
Transcript, on 6 February, summed up popular feeling in an edi- 
torial beginning: 

A chorus of praise fills the cold air of Boston, and the morning 
papers sing together. The new librarian, Mr. Putnam, Is hailed 
with good wishes on every hand. It was a fortunate, a dramatic 
moment for the appointment of a librarian, and both he and the 
trustees who have appointed him deserve congratulation on the 
time and place chosen. 

Herbert Putnam, a son of the New York publisher, was a member 
of the Harvard class of 1883, and, at the time of his appointment, 
practicing law In Boston. But seven of his thirty-three years had 
been spent as a librarian In Minneapolis, first in charge of the local 

Athenaeum and later as head of the newly established Minneapolis 
Public Library. He was a man of Imagination, energy, and executive 
ability, who had, moreover as a friend of his once observed to 
C. K. Bolton a "clever way of keeping a guarding and controlling 
hand over men without offending them." In addition, he entered 
office under different circumstances than his predecessors, for the 
Trustees had come to a realization made public in their 1895 re- 
port that "the responsibility for the proper administration of the 
Library in all its various departments must rest practically upon the 
Librarian, to whom the success or failure of the Library to meet 
the just wants of the public must really be due." 


Changes were also taking place in the board, for Professor 
Henry W. Haynes had resigned the previous year and had heen re- 
placed by Josiah H. Benton, Jr., a New Hampshirernan practicing 
law in Boston, who was intimately associated with the affairs of the 
Old Colony Railroad. Phineas Pierce, a Trustee since 1888, found 
Benton's company so uncongenial that he resigned almost immedi- 
ately upon the appointment, and was replaced in the autumn of 
1894 by Dr. Henry P. Bowditch. In April 1895 Herbert Putnam 
was made Clerk of the Corporation, and as William R. Richards 
did not wish to serve another term as Trustee, the Reverend James 
DeNormandie of the First Church in Roxbury was appointed in 
his place. 

The new building was opened for public use on 1 1 March 1895, 
except for the Newspaper Reading Room and the Special Libraries 
floor, which were not ready until 3 May and 4 November respec- 
tively. Although work on the electric light plant occasioned some 
irregularity in early months, the closing hour was extended from 
nine to ten o'clock, while all departments of the library were regu- 
larly open on Sundays from two to ten. Books could thus, for the 
first time, be withdrawn on Sundays as well as on weekdays, for in 
the old building Bates Hall alone had been open, for reading on the 
premises. The Transcript, in describing the u March opening, 
spoke with pleasure of the "air of eagerness wherewith readers 
found their places" and the manner in which the arts of architecture, 
sculpture and painting became <f but a frame for the figure of the 
humblest citizen seeking and securing the use of a book." As a subtle 
testimony to the refining influences of environment, it added a little 
anecdote of 

... a reader, seeking the registration room, [who] asked one of 
the stately policemen adorning the opening day, "Which way shall 
I go to the desk where we are to take out books?" He replied af- 
fably, "I ain't had no instructions yet." Then the academic at- 
mosphere of the place swept over his spirit and he stood corrected 
before himself. "I haven't had no instructions yet," he called softly 
after the vanishing reader, with an accent of exquisite content. 

Gears necessarily ground somewhat in the first weeks of opera- 
tion, for books classified with a view to the alcoves of the old build- 


ing did not always fall in convenient locations in the new stacks. 

The book railway kept breaking down; call slips jammed in the 
pneumatic tubes, and other mechanical devices needed adjustment. 
All these problems causing delays in service were soluble, and Put- 
nam was constantly seeking means for their solution. It was charac- 
teristic that he begged readers to report delays of more than fifteen 
minutes in delivery with the words, "Such a complaint will not be 
deemed an intrusive grievance, but a service." This was entirely in 
keeping with Putnam's order to the staff, issued the day after 

Any person, who for any reason cannot be properly attended to 
or have his wants supplied in the ordinary routine, or expresses a 
dissatisfaction which cannot be allayed by explanation from the 
attendants, is to have an opportunity to confer with the librarian. 

The librarian will depend upon the attendants to bear this in- 
struction in mind and see to it that ever} 7 such person having com- 
plaint or grievance, whether just or unjust, or unable to get the 
material he desires in the ordinary course, shall be conducted to 

During April 1895 Edwin A. Abbey and John Singer Sargent 
brought to Boston the first of their paintings for the library. When 
these were installed, McKim, Mead and White, with the permission 
of the Trustees, invited a group of friends to inspect them, after the 
usual closing hour, on 25 April. The effect of the decorations is best 
described in the journal of Thomas Russell Sullivan. 

April 25. The architects, McKim, Mead and White, gave a 

reception this evening in their beautiful Public Library to Abbey 
and Sargent, the painters, whose decorative work was unveiled for 
the first time. There were two hundred guests, men and women, 
forty of whom came over from New York for the night. It was a 
splendid affair of brilliant jewels and costumes which can never 
be repeated, for the building now becomes the People's Palace, 
making further fashionable exclusion there impossible. An or- 
chestra played on the landing of the marble staircase, up and 
down which the pretty women strolled in all their glory of satin, 
lace and diamonds. It happened to be a very warm night, and 
through the open windows of the court the fountain flashed and 
sparkled, throwing its tallest jet almost to the roof. The Abbey and 


Sargent pictures overwhelmed us all. Five of the former's Holy 
Grail series are finished, covering half the wall-space. They are 
brilliant dramatic scenes, well composed, glowing with color. 
Sargent chose for his subject "The World's Religions," and has put 
up one niched end of the Hall leading to the Special Libraries, a 
confusion of pagan symbolisms in arch and lunette, with a frieze 
of prophets below. In the centre of the lunette tie children of 
Israel, in a strong group, plead for help under the rod of Egypt 
and the Assyrian yoke. Assyria raises his sword to strike them 
down, but the hand of God arrests his arm. To right and left are 
pagan attributes and idols; above, the seraphs's crimson wings. To 
Moloch and Astarte the vaulted arch is given, with Nut, the Vault 
of Heaven Goddess above and behind them, dominating all. The 
scheme is tremendously ambitious, and to be understood must be 
studied carefully. It is a powerful and most original work, which 
will hold its own with any decorative masterpiece of modern times. 
The prophets are superb figures, wonderfully painted, with great 
folds of drapery, white, black, and brown. Moses stands in the 
centre, worked out in high relief, holding the tablets. The group 
on the left despairs; that on the right looks toward the light with 
outstretched arms, and these figures are incomparable. After the 
reception, some of us were invited to a supper at the Algonquin 
Club, toastaaster Judge Howland of New York, who brought out 
speeches from Sargent, Governor Russell, and Henry Higginson. 
Bed at 3:30 a.m. 

Sullivan's enthusiasm was so widely shared that within a few months 

Edward Robinson of the Museum of Fine Arts was successful in 
raising among local admirers of the decorations a subscription of 
$15,000 that would permit Sargent to continue his work along the 
lateral walls of the third floor gallery. For sheer artistic excitement 
and enthusiasm there had never been anything in Boston quite to 
equal this unveiling of Abbey's and Sargent's work; it was not to be 
matched until New Years night 1903 when Mrs. John L. Gardner 
first threw open the beauties of Fenway Court. The Transcript and 
Herald were warm in their praises, but the Journal and Traveler 
undertook to snipe at the architects for having given the reception, 
and at President Abbott for having permitted it. This latest hue and 
cry, under the headline "WHO OWNS LIBRARY?" was one too 
much, and on i May 1 895 Abbott resigned. The vision of the build- 
ing was his; he had seen it through to completion; it was in working 


order, and there was no longer any reason why he should, to the 
detriment of his own affairs, give endless time and thought only to 
receive the brickbats of sensational journalists by way of thanks. 
The more sober newspapers expressed regret at his decision and 
genuine appreciation of his services. Boston saw little of him there- 
after, for in January 1897 Abbott became the first Director of the 
American Academy in Rome, and although continuing in that post 
only to 1903, lived chiefly in Italy until his death in 1931. The 
record of his accomplishment remains in Copley Square, although 
few Bostonians now recognize it as such. Former Mayor Prince was 
elected President in October 1895, while Samuel Carr was ap- 
pointed a Trustee for the remainder of Abbott's unexpired term. 

The prospect of the new library had attracted important gifts 
during the years that the building was under construction. In Janu- 
ary 1893 Judge Chamberlain announced the intention of bequeath- 
ing his extensive collection of historical documents, manuscripts 
and autographs on the condition that a special room be furnished 
for their safe lodging, and his willingness Immediately to transfer 
the larger part of the material on deposit. As this offer was ac- 
cepted with enthusiasm, space was at once provided and the collection 
installed in the new building during 1894. In the winter of 1893- 
1894 steps were taken to secure the deposit of certain books of 
President John Adams, who had, In his eighty-seventh year, pre- 
sented the town of Quincy with "the fragments of my Library, 
which still remain in my possession, excepting a few that I shall re- 
serve for my consolation in the few days that remain to me/' The 
2,756 volumes thus given batted from pillar to post In Quincy for 
sixty years, with considerable loss, theft and mutilation, until in 
1882 the remnants were placed in the new Thomas Crane, Public 
Library. The phenomenal range of John Adams's Intellectual in- 
terests made his library of peculiar Interest, and, although many of 
the books had been mutilated by autograph thieves, others contained 
marginal annotations of singular value In tracing the evolution of 
their owner's Ideas. President Abbott subsequently proposed to 
Charles Francis Adams, In November 1893, that the books be de- 
posited in a special alcove in the new Boston Public Library, on the 
theory that they would be more accessible to historical students than 


in Quincy. As this met with approval in Quincy, John Adams's 
library was transferred to Copley Square, and a catalogue prepared 
by Lindsay Swift, who had since 1878 been at work under James L. 
Whitney in the Catalogue Department of the Public Library. Thus, 
as with the Prince Library a quarter of a century before, the deposit 
of an extremely valuable collection had been secured chiefly be- 
cause adequate space was available for its suitable lodging. 

Although both the Chamberlain collection and the John Adams 
library ranked as trophies, increasing the prestige of the institution 
but really of value only to an occasional scholar, major gifts by 
William C. Todd of Atkinson, New Hampshire, and Allen A. 
Brown of Boston, greatly broadened the scope and increased the 
popular usefulness of the Public Library. Notwithstanding the prac- 
tice of many of the early proprietary and mercantile libraries of 
furnishing numerous current newspapers in their reading rooms, 
the Boston Public Library had intentionally avoided such a devel- 
opment. Justin Winsor in his 1868 report had stated flatly, "a news- 
room our hall was not intended to be, and we offer no comparison 
with other reading rooms in that respect," pointing out that while 
the Boston Athenaeum subscribed to 115 magazines and 82 news- 
papers, the Public Library took 287 magazines and only four news- 
papers, all foreign. Even the Athenaeum's number of papers was 
small beside the 200 of the New York and Philadelphia Mercantile 
Libraries and the 300 provided in the comparable institution in San 
Francisco. Although the number gradually increased, to the satis- 
faction of the Lower Hall's chair warmers, who wished to enjoy 
the comfort of the room without taxing their intellects, the Public 
Library never attempted a broad and representative collection until 
1893 when William C. Todd offered an annual gift of $2,000 for 
the purpose. His letter of 16 June clearly explains his motives. 

Boston is a city of rare privileges, but it lacks one possessed by 

many others, viz., a place where all citizens and strangers can 
enter freely, and read the leading papers of the day; some such 
place as the Cooper Institute of New York affords. The Boston 
Public Library is well supplied with magazines, but not with news- 
papers. It is too late to discuss the value of newspapers they have 
become a necessity. The business man, the student in every depart- 


ment, the politician anxious to feel the public pulse, the men who, 
like the Athenians o old, "spent their time either to tell or hear 
some new thing," all, of every pursuit and condition, must read 
the newspapers to learn what has transpired the world over. 
The press has become the great agency by which information 
is diffused, leading opinions discussed, and public opinion 
moulded. ... It is not enough to read one paper, and that 
partisan, if any one would be correctly informed and judge clearly; 
yet many newspapers are too expensive for ordinary readers, and 
a large part are desired only for occasional use. 

Accordingly, if the Trustees would provide a suitable room in the 
new building, Mr. Todd promised an adequate annual gift, and, 
eventually, a fund of $50,000 "to secure forever the annual pay- 
ment." This generous offer was gratefully accepted, and the lecture 
hall (occupying nearly half of the Boylston Street facade on the 
second floor) redesignated as a Newspaper Room. The gift was 
extremely welcome, for as the Trustees pointed out in their letter 
to Mr. Todd: 

The free Public Library "open to all" was not established 
for the sole use of students and scholars, but for the enjoyment 
of the people of all classes and professions, especially the "plain 
people," to quote the language of our martyred President. These 
latter will greatly appreciate your benefaction. 

When this Newspaper Room was opened on 3 May 1895, some 
two months after the building as a whole, 125 papers were available 
on the racks, with the intention announced of increasing the num- 
ber to two hundred. By 1896 there were 318, of which in were 
foreign. In October 1897 Mr. Todd carried out Ms promise of 
giving $50,000 to place the newspaper collection on a permanent 

Allen A. Brown's gift in 1 894 of his collection of music and musi- 
cal literature extended the usefulness of the Public Library in still 
another direction. While the individual musician accumulates, and 
wears out, the texts necessary for his own performance, he is un- 
likely to go far beyond that. The collection of a musical library in- 
volves very peculiar problems, for full orchestral scores when pub- 
lished are expensive, while some are available only in manuscript 


copies that are rented rather than sold, and then under rigid pro- 
prietary restrictions. Thus such collecting requires not only special- 
ized knowledge but a degree of patience and bibliographical enthu- 
siasm that is beyond the range of the average musician. The works 
of Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven do not find their way to 
his shelves with the ease by which a poet may arm himself with 
Chaucer, Donne and Keats. Mr. Brown's gift therefore had peculiar 
significance to a city that, since the foundation of the New England 
Conservatory of Music in 1867 an( i & e establishment of the Bos- 
ton Symphony Orchestra in the eighties, was becoming increasingly 
conscious of the art of music. His collection was designed for study 
rather than performance, and consequently he provided that no 
volumes were to circulate, and no instruments were to be allowed 
in the room set apart for the books. The Allen A. Brown Music 
Library was installed in the handsome room directly over the main 
staircase, and opening out of the Sargent Gallery on the third floor. 
The commodious provision of space for special libraries on the 
third floor attracted the gift of smaller collections upon particular 
themes. In 1896 Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson presented 
a thousand-volume "Galatea Collection of Books relating to the His- 
tory of Women/' while Miss Victorine Thomas Artz of Chicago 
established the "Longfellow Memorial Collection/' by the gift of 
$10,000, the income of which was to be spent for the purchase of 
"valuable rare editions of the writings, either in verse or prose, 
of American and foreign authors/' In the same year, the Twentieth 
Regiment Association of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry which 
had already given one of the lions on the main staircase took steps 
toward providing an endowment of $5,000, received the following 
April, for books of a military and patriotic character, while Mr. and 
Mrs. James M. Codman began a collection of landscape architecture 
in memory of two members of that profession, Henry Sargent Cod- 
man and Philip Codman. These private gifts were particularly wel- 
come, for it was recognized that, with the greatly increased expense 
of operating the new building, additions to the trust funds were 
highly necessary if books were to be purchased on a proper scale. 
The Trustees, in their 1896 report, reminded friends of the Library 
that, out of a $225,000 city appropriation, but $25,000 was avail- 


able for books, and that tliis barely sufficed for the more popular 

The city has erected for the library a noble building; but the 
moneys it provides for its maintenance must be directed to the edu- 
cational needs of the great mass of citizens. The funds required 
to enable the institution to render the service which a great ref- 
erence library can perform for the higher scholarship must be 
contributed, as we have said, by individuals. 

There was a proper concern, however, lest collecting in such spe- 
cialties, even by private generosity, run away with itself. The 1895 

Examining Committee, reiterating that the Library's chief function 
was popular that is "placing at the disposal of the general public 
of books which, in the broadest sense, the general public may find 
either useful or wholesomely interesting" urged that the Trustees 
decide, in relation to the other resources of the neighborhood, upon 
"a definitely announced policy as to what special subjects shall be 
kept up by the Public Library and wiiat shall be disregarded/' This 
committee realized, earlier than some enthusiastic collectors, that 
"to make any single library totally comprehensive is manifestly im- 
possible." The Trustees wisely adopted a policy of uniting the "four 
great libraries of Boston and Cambridge and the several special 
libraries of Boston to avoid unnecessary duplication" and to "develop 
certain lines of subjects in which each should endeavor to be ex- 

Such a policy became increasingly important with the expense in- 
volved in an orderly development of the branches. The beginning 
of the system w r as, like so many other things, due to Justin Winsor, 
but without his guiding hand there was little central control in the 
following years. An Inspector of Branches w T as mentioned in the 
1894 report as a desirable innovation, but it remained for Herbert 
Putnam, who went about matters with the effectiveness of Winsor, 
to place the system on a properly planned basis. He created the office 
of Supervisor of Branches and Stations, in 1896, "to unify the out- 
lying system, to strengthen the collection of books, to improve the 
equipment, and to introduce uniform and modern methods of ad- 
ministration." The open shelf system and children's sections were 
rapidly extended to the branches, while reclassification of their 


boots by a common method was undertaken. With the opening of 
the remodelled West Church as the West End Branch, on 3 Febru- 
ary 1896, the somewhat dubious North End Branch was eliminated. 
Thus the system comprised, in 1896, ten branch libraries, four 
branch reading rooms (Lower Mills, Mattapan, Mt Bowdoin and 
North Brighton), and twelve delivery stations. Two libraries 
(Brighton and West End) were in separate buildings devoted ex- 
clusively to their use, and owned by the city; six (Charlestown, 
Dorchester, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, South End and West Rox- 
bury) were in city buildings devoted in part to other municipal 
uses. The Roxbury Branch was in the library building leased from 
the Trustees of the Fellowes Athenaeum, while the South Boston 
Branch occupied rented rooms in a commercial building. 

In reading Putnam's reports one inevitably feels that, almost by 
his very arrival, he brought the Public Library back to the heights 
of the great Winsor decade, when important things had been hap- 
pening in every direction at once. A Special Libraries Department 
was established under the care of Otto Fleischner. Francis W. Lee 
was transferred from the Catalogue Department to the charge of the 
Printing Department, where linotype machines were installed for 
the composition of catalogue cards and other library printing. 

In March 1 895 a new system of graded service was put into effect 
whereby both appointment to the library service and promotion 
from grade to grade within was by examination. The adoption of the 
system "created both hope and despondency," as Putnam drily ob- 
served, "hope in the minds of the younger employes, more fresh 
from school or college, and despondency in employes who lack an 
academic training, or whose academic knowledge has lapsed from 
disuse." Five grades, each with a minimum and maximum salary, 
were established. Once the maximum was reached, no further in- 
crease in pay was possible, save by promotion to a higher grade, 
which was dependent both upon examination and the capacity 
demonstrated by previous service. 

The Bulletin, which had appeared quarterly since its foundation, 
was published each month beginning in 1896, when Lindsay Swift 
was appointed Editor of Library Publications. The old quarterly 
had been printed in an edition of 1800 and sold at five cents per 


copy for residents of Boston and twenty-five cents for non-residents 
but 5,000 copies of the new monthly, which listed accessions of 
the previous month, were issued and distributed free. A system of in- 
ter-library loans within Massachusetts was instituted in May 1896; 

lectures and exhibitions were provided on the Special Libraries floor, 
and in many ways the boundaries of the library were enlarged by 
Putnam's imagination and energy. In 1898 he brought Worthing- 
ton C. Ford, formerly Chief of the Bureau of Statistics of the Treas- 
ury Department, from Washington to take charge of a newly created 
Department of Documents and Statistics. 

Even the most cursory review of Putnam's accomplishments com- 
pels agreement with the Boston Herald's editorial comment of 6 
April 1896, after the completion of his first year of administration. 

Mr. Putnam has not lost himself in the routine work of library 
management. Without neglecting any duty, he has risen to the 
conception of what the Public Library should be to the people of 
Boston. He has administered it in a liberal spirit, showing a will- 
ingness to accommodate the people wherever it was possible, and 
granting to scholars more and more the privileges which they de- 
sire. At the same time, he has kept the expenses of running the 
institution below the limit of expenditure provided by the city. 
How this could be done it is not easy to see, but it shows a control 
of details which will give the public the confidence that whatever 
may be asked for by the trustees of the Public Library will be 
worthily expended for its needs. The conclusion reached by most 
readers of this report will be that the administration of the library 
is in safe hands, and that it is destined in the near future to be far 
more influential in the best directions than it is today. 

Herbert Putnam's administration was, incidentally, a kind of 
shakedown cruise for the new building, during which its virtues 
and defects were carefully studied with a view to future improve- 
ment. Inevitably there were difficulties to working in a palace, even 
when it was conceived as a "palace for the people." H. Carrington 
Bolton, who had come from New York for a few weeks' work in 
Bates Hall soon after its opening in 1895, found that 

The introduction of the much-lauded decorations by eminent art- 
ists is a great drawback to the undisturbed enjoyment of the 
privileges for which the building is primarily erected. The throngs 


of people who crowd the grand staircase to visit the splendid build- 
ing are not content with gazing at the wall decorations by Abbey, 
Sargent and others, but must needs tramp through Bates Hall as 
well, clicking their heels on the stone floor throughout its entire 
length. One morning, as I sat at a table in the reading-room, I 
noted, within the space of one hour, a troop of eleven women 
tourists, two bands of school-girls personally conducted by their 
mistresses, besides scores of individual sight-seers of all ages, alone 
or in group of varying numbers. 

Although Mr. Bolton and others had misgivings about conducting 

"their researches amid the social surroundings of a public art mu- 
seum," the die was cast. In an article in The Forum, Herbert Put- 
nam observed : 

In the new building for the Boston Public Library there has been 
a definite and pronounced design to produce a work of art. Such 
a structure has in itself undoubted educational value; but its erec- 
tion cannot of course augment the functions of the library which 
is to inhabit it. It represents chiefly a sort of apotheosis of the con- 
fidence which the American people have come to feel in the pub- 
lic library as a branch of education. 

During 1895 the largest of the Purvis de Chavannes panels the 

Muses welcoming Genius, the Messenger of Light had been in- 
stalled on the main staircase, and in October 1896 the last of his 
panels arrived from Paris. The completion of this great composition 
attracted less than suitable attention because of a ludicrous tempest 
in a teapot arising from a generous gesture of Charles Pollen Me- 
Kim. As early as April 1890 McEim had expressed the desire to give 
a fountain for the library courtyard as a memorial to his wife. As his 
offer was both gratefully and promptly accepted by the Trustees, 
McKim devoted especial care and thought to a decoration that was 
at once to be the final adornment of his beautiful court and a fitting 
tribute to Julia Appleton McKim. H. T. Parker, writing from New 
York to the Boston Transcript for 23 May 1895, gave the first pub- 
lic news of the promised gift, telling how McKim 

. . . chose as his especial care the fountain in the interior 
court, designing it in the fashion of an impluvium of a Roman 
house a shallow, quadrangular basin, framed in a broad rim of 
marble, and reflecting in its water, as in a mirror, the surrounding 


walls and the open sky above. At first only a jet of water was to 
spout upward from the centre of the basin; but subsequently he 
decided to adorn the fountain with sculpture* Delays of various 
sorts then arose, and it was not until Mr. MacMonnies's visit, some 
months since, to New York, that a final decision was made. The 
sculptor then profferred to Mr. McKim his bronze "Bacchante and 
Child/' and in spite of many suggestions that it remain in this city, 
it will become die chief part of the fountain in the court of the 
Boston Library. 

Frederic Macmonnies, who was still working upon his Bacchante in 
Paris, had sent to New York only a study on a greatly reduced scale, 
but it was fine enough to convince McKim that his quest was over. 
His appreciation was shared in Paris, for, on finding that the origi- 
nal bronze was destined for Boston, the French government ordered 
a replica for the Luxembourg. H. T. P. thus described the bronze, 
which was slightly larger than life: 

The nude Bacchante is in vigorous and joyous motion, poised on 
the toes of her left foot, her springy weight falling altogether on 
her left leg, her right uplifted and her bended knee thrust for- 
ward, as, half-dancing, she pursues her way. In her left hand she 
raises a bunch of grapes high above her head. With her right 
arm bent about him as though to make a seat of her elbow, she 
carries a naked child, that presses its head eagerly against her 
throat and cheek, and gazes with wide-eyed and open mouthed 
eagerness at the quivering grapes. 

He found in the vitality of the work great charm and the "mingled 

suggestion of felicitous imagination and easy executive skill." It 
would be highly decorative in the courtyard. 

With its vitality and gaiety, and its suggestion of the joy of life, it 
promises to gain by contrast with the austere dignity of its sur- 
roundings. In giving it, Mr. McKim and Mr. MacMonnies will 
give Boston one of the few admirable examples of imaginative 
sculpture in public places in America. 

Alas for H. T. P/s prophecy, they gave Boston instead a cause 

In July 1896, the reduced model of Bacchante was submitted to 
the Boston Art Commission so that their approval might be obtained 
before the full scale statue was shipped from New York. The Com- 


mission invited a "Committee o Experts" to report their individual 

opinions upon the artistic merits of the statue. This group took more 
than two months to consider the matter, but finally came up with 
five pro and four contra. Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel 
Chester French were among those in favor, but, alas, the supposedly 


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infallible Charles Eliot Norton was on the other side. After con- 
siderable debate a vote to approve the acceptance of Bacchante was 
defeated four to one, the only favorable vote being cast by F. O. 
Prince, who was both a Trustee of the Public Library and a member 
of the Art Commission. The Secretary was then "instructed to in- 
form the Trustees of the Public Library that, while recognizing the 
remarkable technical merits of Mr. Macmonnies' statue ... as a 
work of art, this Commission does not regard it as suited to the 
Public Library building." Unfortunately, former Mayor Prince, in 
talking to an Advertiser reporter after the meeting, admitted that 
no questions of artistic merit or nudity had troubled the Commis- 
sion, but only the appropriateness of placing "a monument to ine- 


briety" in the library. This comment immediately caused poor Bac- 
chante, who was simply on trial as a work of art, to be placed in 
triple jeopardy on grounds of intemperance and immorality. It also 
caused other cities to laugh. The New York Herald reported the 
affair under the headline 'Too naughty for Boston Library" while 
the Springfield Republican described it as "a fine example of the 
continuing Puritanism of Boston." Although the Boston Post 
shrieked: "No Tipsy Statue for the Public Library, Messrs. Trus- 
tees" and campaigned militanfly, other local papers joined New 
York in amusement. The Advertiser proposed placing the statue of 
a policeman near Bacchante "in order that the Boston idea may be 
fully represented," while the Globe offered Mr. McKim the sugges- 
tion that he substitute "a nice moral statue of a Sunday school 
teacher, say." Thomas Russell Sullivan, outraged by the decision, 
wrote in his journal: 

Considering that the Commission has never taken the pains to see 
the group, the discourtesy of this proceeding passes belief. Their 
verdict of inappropriateness was based entirely upon photographs 
and a reduction of the bronze eighteen inches high. The wording 
of their refusal is hopelessly provincial, and the tone of the press in 
commenting favorably upon their course is equally so. McKim and 
Saint-Gaudens, our foremost sculptor, wrote strong letters recom- 
mending the group in vain. The depressing little incident seems 
to drop us back a century or two towards the dark ages. 

Two of the Public Library Trustees, Dr. Henry P. Bowditch, an 

eminent professor in the Harvard Medical School, and the Reverend 
James DeNormandie, so successfully taxed the Art Commission 
with decision upon insufficient knowledge that "in the course of 
justice and official courtesy" (as Sullivan put it) the Commission 
agreed to have Bacchante temporarily installed in the library court- 
yard so that she might be seen in situ with the fountain playing. 
Although the moment for dispassionate criticism had passed, if one 
may judge by the Boston Post's reticently subtle headline of 1 1 No- 
vember: "BACCHANTE COMING. Art Commission Will Set Up 
Naked Drunken Woman for Inspection," a private view was held 
on 15 November. T. R. Sullivan considered it "an amusing day," 
and noted 


This Sunday morning, McKim's gift, the rejected Bacchante, was 
set up in the Library court with the fountain playing about it, and 
the solemn Art Commission with its experts in tow assembled there 
for deliberate inspection. When about noon, the august conclave 
retired into secret session, a hundred or more invited guests were 
turned loose in the court for their private satisfaction, discussion 
and argument. The scene had its comic side, although a strong, 
virulent minority, finding the group inappropriate as well as in- 
decent, conducted itself with portentous earnestness. The major- 
ity, however, including many intelligent women, thought it singu- 
larly fine and beautiful, and frankly hoped it would remain. One 
important fact was made clear at once. So far as scale goes, the 
group is in perfect harmony with the surrounding arcade. In this 
particular, at least, it stands as if in obedience to the laws of pre- 

McKim, who had come on from New York to see the show, dis- 
creetly looked down on the court from an upper window. The 
suppressed excitement of the crowd, he told Sullivan, surprised 
and pleased him. "The fine thing about Boston/' he remarked, "is 
that when a matter of this sort conies up, it proves always to be a 
burning question. The crowd was like a French one in its movement 
and gesticulation." Some of the old reticences still survived, for the 
Rector of Trinity Church, wishing to see without being seen, was, 
through the tactful consideration of Dr. De Nomiandie, specially 
admitted at 1 1 p.m. for a most private of private views! 

After seeing the statue, the Art Commission's "Experts" wavered, 
seven approving and two (one of whom was Norton) continuing in 
absolute opposition. In view of this change of heart, the Art Com- 
mission reversed its former decision and, on 17 November, approved 
the statue by a vote of four to one. The statue thus remained on 
public view during the rest of November. 

Although now officially blessed, Bacchante was still the target 
of violent abuse. The Reverend James B. Brady, preaching Sunday 
night, the 15th, denounced such an infernal representation of 
"sfxumpetry" and shouted: 

Erect a memorial, if you will, to Benedict Arnold, to John Wilkes 
Booth, to Guiteau, or to Josephine Mansfield, but for the sake of 
virtue, God, the country, the commonwealth and the city, don't 


set up a memorial to the worst type of harlotry with which the 

earth was ever afflicted. 

Away with the horrid thing, and bury it where the Bostonians 
buried the tea in 1773. 

Bacchante was removed to winter quarters in the library basement, 
while a permanent pedestal was being prepared. During her ab- 
sence petitions and counter-petitions circulated. Congregational 
and Baptist groups denounced the statue while T. R. Sullivan 
begged the Trustees to disregard interference. On 14 December he 

Both cats have their backs well up, and the fur is likely to ly be- 
fore spring comes. I have several volunteers who are carrying my 
paper about, and we hope to overwhelm the howling dervishes by 
our numbers if not by rational arguments. Against the group are 
arrayed President Eliot, Professor Norton, Robert Grant, Barrett 
Wendell, and others, who regard it as "a menace to the Common- 
wealth." Their allies, the sensational clergy, go a few steps further, 
and declare that this begins a righteous crusade against die intoler- 
able indecencies of the antique in the Art Museum. Verily, im- 
propriety makes strange bedfellows! 

Criticism descended to a personal plane. It was asserted that the 

original of Bacchante was none other than the Parisian artists' model 
Sarah. Brown, the reputed daughter of an English peer and a beauti- 
ful Jewish circus rider. In support of this identification, a drawing 
by Charles Dana Gibson of Sarah (very fully clothed) and Mac- 
monnies, taking a friendly glass at a cafe table, was reproduced. 
This was hotly denied by those who claimed that the virtuous Mile. 

Beatrice W was Macmonnies model! Such inanities continued 

until the following May when McKim withdrew his gift. "This," 
according to T. R. Sullivan, "at the instigation of the Public Library 
Trustees, who decided that they did not care to face the music. The 
Philistines be upon us, and they have conquered!" J. T. Trowbridge, 
who thought no better of this "apotheosis of Philistia," drew a sketch 
of a liberally clothed "bicycle goddess" as an acceptable substitute. 
The Metropolitan Museum promptly accepted Bacchante from 
McKim, who wrote Macmonnies in Paris : "Removed from Puritan 
surroundings to this Metropolis, where she belongs, I think we may 


regard the question of her virtue as settled for all time/' George R. 

White promptly made his feelings clear by purchasing from Mac- 
monnies the second bronze replica the first having gone to the 
Luxembourg and presenting it to the Museum of Fine Arts! Thus 
Macmonnies' Bacchante, having been banished from one side of 
Copley Square, settled on the other, remaining there happily and 
without scandal until the Museum moved to its present building in 
1909. Although she adorns the courtyard enclosed by the Decora- 
tive Arts wing on Huntington Avenue, not a few Bostonians still 
hope that she may some day return to the fountain in the Public 
Library, where they if not McKim think she belongs. 

While citizens of Boston were making a national laughing stock 
of themselves over the Bacchante "scandal," Herbert Putnam quietly 
continued his efforts to fit the new building to the needs of the 
library. Thanks largely to his skill in increasing the public useful- 
ness of the institution, it soon appeared that the building was, if 
anything, too small rather than too large. Bates Hall, which had 
seemed vast, was by the end of 1896 so overcrowded that some wise- 
acres proposed glassing over the courtyard and converting it to a 
reading room! The building had, after all, been planned in i888 ? 
after a decade of professional stagnation, without even the nominal 
advice of Judge Chamberlain. It was small wonder that the result, 
handsome as it was, did not in every respect meet the needs of an 
institution that, after dozing peacefully under a tree for eighteen 
years, had not only rejoined the race but rapidly returned to the 
lead. By 1898 the changes required for more efficient administra- 
tion, more rapid delivery of books, better accommodation of read- 
ers, and improved ventilating arrangements were so imperative that 
an Act of the Legislature, and subsequent action of the City Coun- 
cil, provided a special appropriation of $100,000 to make them 
possible. The heating and ventilating system was enlarged. In order 
to double the Children's Room in size, space was fitted up beyond 
the court for the Patent Library. The Newspaper Room was moved 
to its present location on the first floor, thus becoming more acces- 
sible and freeing for use as a Lecture Hall space originally intended 
for that purpose. The Librarian's Office was thrown into the working 
area of the Delivery Room, where improved tubes and carriers to 


speed up the Issuing of books were concentrated, while a section of 
stack was rebuilt to provide a new set of administrative offices. On 
the first floor the Ordering Department was doubled in size, and 
the new Branch Division accommodated in a former stack area. 
Offices for the Editor, the Chiefs of the Issue and the Ordering De- 
partments, and staff luncheon and locker rooms were provided in 
Entresol A. The courtyard remained unspoiled, but its carriage en- 
trance from Boylston Street was sacrificed to make space for a peri- 
odical room. The loss of this architectural feature is the more to be 
regretted because the 1898 abandonment of the Boylston Street en- 
trance made possible, a few years hence, the planting of a subway 
exit squarely in the middle of that facade. Thus today, as A, King- 
sley Porter sadly remarked in 1918, "this entire monumental com- 
position leads up impressively to a hole in the ground/' Upon 
the completion of the work, Putnam observed: 

The improvements above described do not, indeed, absolutely 
perfect the building for present uses. The issue of the books from 
the stacks for reference readers, and the issue for borrowers, are 
still dependent upon one set of attendants, one system of mecha- 
nism and one channel of issue. The books required from the 
stacks by the reference reader in Bates Hall must still be forwarded 
to him feom the issue desk by hand, through a public room at times 
crowded with sightseers. And, ample as is the general space pro- 
vided for readers, and sufficient (for a few years) as is the shelv- 
ing, there is very great need of rooms set off for special collections 
for the use of classes and for specialized research. But most em- 
barrassing difficulties have been overcome, and the most pressing 
needs of the moment have been met; and what has been done will 
add greatly to the comfort of the public, and greatly to conveni- 
ence in administration. 

In the fifty-five years that have followed, the chess game of shift- 
ing space to meet "the most pressing needs of the moment" has be- 
come perennial. This playing of the gambit was Herbert Putnam's 
last major contribution to the Boston Public Library, for OB 13 
March 1899 President McKinley appointed him Librarian of Con- 
gress. For the good of the country and the library profession there 
could have been no finer choice, but the accomplishments of Herbert 
Putnam's forty years of distinguished service in Washington inevi- 


tably cause regret that he had so brief a time in Boston. In com- 
paring the Boston Public Library as he found it and as he left it, 
one may well imagine what he would have done in a term of office 
no longer than Justin Winsor's ten years. 


For Herbert Putnam's administration, see Charles F. D. Belden, 
"The Library Service of Herbert Putnam in Boston/' and R. R. 
Bowker, "The Appointment of Herbert Putnam as Librarian of 
Congress/' in Essays offered to Herbert Putnam (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1929), pp. 10-21. 

Passages from the Journal of Thomas Russell Sullivan 1891- 
1903 (Boston: Hough ton Mifflin Company, 1917) tell of the open- 
ing of the building, and of the enlightened side of the Bacchante 
controversy. Judge Robert Grant in Fourscore, An Autobiography 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934), pp. 292293, re- 
called after almost forty years his activity on the other side. Nearer 
the event he had introduced the commotion into his novel The 
Chippendales (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909). The 
story of the Reverend E. Winchester Donald's midnight private 
view of Bacchante was told by the Reverend James De Normandie 
at a dinner given in 1909 by J. H. Benton to my predecessor at the 
Athenaeum, Charles Knowles Bolton, who recorded it in his diary. 
I am grateful to Mr. Robert Peabody Bellows for allowing me to 
examine the records of the Art Commission of the City of Boston 
in regard to Bacchante. Boston Public Library Newspaper Clip- 
pings Jan. 3, 1895 to Jan. 25, 1897 (T.R. 27.21) contain some 
delightful bits of journalistic nonsense. I treated the subject in some- 
what more detail than is possible here in a paper "The Vicissitudes 
of Bacchante in Boston" that was read at the 19 May 1954 meeting 
of the Club of Odd Volumes, and printed in the New England 
Quarterly, xxvii (December 1954), 435-454. 


The Administrations of 
Whitney and Wadlin 

The problem of working the Public Library, 
therefore, is the problem of bringing its books and 
other materials into the most general and extensive 
public use within the limit of the amount of money 
which the taxpayers are willing to pay for that use. 

UPON Herbert Putnam's departure for Washington, James L. 
Whitney, Chief of the Catalogue Department, was appointed 
Acting Librarian. This modest and painstaking bibliographer had 
entered the service of the Public Library in 1869, thirteen years 
after his graduation from Yale. By 1872 he had become not only 
Deputy in the Catalogue Department, but Principal Assistant (or 
a kind of second mate) to Justin Winsor, while two years later, 
upon the death of William A. Wheeler, Whitney was promoted to 
the dual post of Assistant Superintendent (later called Principal 
Assistant Librarian) and Chief of the Catalogue Department. Al- 
though his executive functions became obscured in the early nineties 
during the unacknowledged quasl-librarianship of President Abbott, 
and were not reaffirmed during Putnam's administration, Whitney's 
quarter century of meticulous supervision of the Catalogue Depart- 
ment represented unique continuity. Save for two female clerks 
who had come to work in 1868, no one had been longer employed 
in the library than he. Herbert Putnam's departure was shortly fol- 
lowed by the resignation and death of former Mayor Frederick 0. 
Prince, President of the Trustees, who was succeeded by Solomon 
Lincoln, a lawyer of the Harvard class of 1857. The old Boylston 


Street library, which had been leased in October 1896 to the man- 
agement of the Bowdoin Square Theater for unlearned use as a pop 
concert hall and beer garden, was in February 1899 sold for $850,- 
ooo to the Frederick L. Ames estate, which demolished it and 
erected the present Colonial Building on the site. As the proceeds 
were turned back into the City Sinking Fund, the library was de- 
prived of rents that had been of material assistance during the pre- 
vious two and a half years. 

Thus 1899 was a disoriented year so far as future planning was 
concerned. Several unemployed politicians invariably referred to 
as "the Hon." X. Y. Snodgrass were 'prominently mentioned" by 
their friends as suitable candidates for the librarianship, but in the 
end, only three days before Christmas, the Trustees reached the 
welcome decision of appointing Whitney Librarian. The sudden 
death in June 1899 of Philip Henry Savage, who had served as Put- 
nam's secretary, caused general consternation in Boston. As the 
loss of this promising young man, "rich in love, if not in fame," 
to quote Bliss Carman's elegy upon him left a void in the library 
administration, Otto Fleischner, a native of Bohemia who was Cus- 
todian of Special Libraries, was in January 1900 appointed Assist- 
ant Librarian. 

Whitney's interest in historical matters was reflected in the 
prompt establishment of a Department of Manuscripts under the 
charge of Worthington C. Ford, the energetic Chief of the Depart- 
ment of Documents and Statistics, who, in collaboration with Lind- 
say Swift, promoted the publication in the Bulletin of many of the 
more important historical documents owned by the Library. Ford's 
activities in assembling public documents and squeezing from them 
statistical data concerning commerce, transportation, labor, produc- 
tion and finance amounted, among other things, to a forerunner of a 
business reference service. The Manuscript Department's enthusi- 
astic accumulation of papers and broadsides relating to the early his- 
tory of Massachusetts and Boston represented, however, an oppor- 
tunistic collection of material that lay more properly within the 
province of the Massachusetts Historical Society. The early years of 
the new century were, however, so full of dreams of expansion in 
every direction that in 1901 the Trustees purchased, through the 


knowledgeable assistance of Sydney C. Cockerell In London, some 

thirty-five examples of illuminated manuscripts, ranging from the 
twelfth to the sixteenth centuries. It is not easy to reconcile all this 
with the theories of popular education that brought the Public Li- 
brary into being, particularly when so little money was available for 
the purchase of books. In 1899 the City appropriation, used for 
maintenance and operating expenses, was $255,000, while books 
had to be bought from the $12,337 received as income from trust 
funds. As the appropriation during the last year in the Boylston 
Street building had been only $ 1 75,000, the higher cost of maintain- 
ing the Copley Square library represented a sufficient drain on pub- 
lic funds to make it evident that more endowment must be secured. 
On this point, Putnam had spoken plainly in his last report. 

There is a general impression among citizens of Boston that the 
general and even development of the Library is amply assured by 
endowment and appropriation. This is an error which ought by 
every means to be corrected. On its popular side the Library is 
developing normally. The scholarly side is not developing in proper 
proportion. On this side the Library is relatively losing rank. It will 
not, cannot, regain this rank until the citizens of Boston come to 
its aid with further endowment. 

In spite of frequent reminders, they did not jostle each other to do 
so. The first really substantial increase came only in May 1903 with 
the receipt of Robert Charles Billings's $100,000 bequest, while that 
remained in solitary splendor for rather a long time. 

After three years as Librarian, and thirty-three in the service of 
the library, James L. Whitney resigned. A scholar by temperament, 
he had found the heavy responsibilities of administrative work un- 
congenial and taxing after a lifetime devoted to the minutiae of 
bibliography. As he was in his sixty-eighth year, the constant pres- 
sures of office may have weighed more heavily upon Whitney than 
they would have a decade or two earlier; in any event he turned 
over his duties as Librarian to Horace G. Wadlin on i February 
1903, and thereafter became Chief of the Department of Docu- 
ments and Statistics, with additional responsibility for the Depart- 
ment of Manuscripts, succeeding Worthington C. Ford who had 
resigned the previous September. In this subordinate niche, which 


was perhaps better suited to Ms temperament and strength, Whit- 
ney continued to serve the Library until his death on 25 September 

The appointment of Horace G. Wadlin, Chief of the Massachu- 
setts Bureau of Statistics of Labor, represented a new departure, 
for he was chosen on the theory that executive ability rather 
than knowledge of books or previous library experience was the 
qualification to be sought in a librarian. Born in Reading in 1851, 
he had entered an architect's office upon leaving school. In this 
profession he was responsible for building certain schools, fire sta- 
tions, and various shingled and heavily-gabled private houses be- 
fore entering the Massachusetts Legislature and becoming involved 
in census affairs. An unnamed Trustee of the Public Library ex- 
plained to the Boston newspapers that his colleagues felt that the 
appointment of a Librarian "who has demonstrated his ability as a 
business man" was "in direct line with the wishes of Mayor Collins, 
who has indicated his desire for business administration of the 
city's functions by appointing business men to the board/* Conse- 
quently it is in no way surprising that the emphasis of the next 
fourteen years in the life of the Public Library was upon orderly 
housekeeping, with little attempt to revive the energetic and imagi- 
native experiments of Justin Winsor and Herbert Putnam. 

There were many problems in reconciling limitations of funds 
and space with the demands of readers throughout the city. By mov- 
ing the Binding and Printing Departments to rented quarters in 
Stanhope Street in 1902, space was created in the Copley Square 
Library for enlarging the accommodation of the Patent and Statis- 
tical Departments. In spite of constant worries about theft and dam- 
age, an increased number of books was placed upon open shelves, 
until by 1905 nearly 200,000 volumes were thus available between 
the central library and the branches. In the same year Wadlin 
noted the increasing responsibilities placed upon the Public Library 
by the tides of immigration. 

It is comparatively easy to attract the children of foreign-born 
parents, and to lead them by progressive stages into the world of 
English literature, particularly since the elementary schools are 
also opening the way; but many of the adults never master the new 


language so as to read It easily. If the Public Library Is to serve 

all classes, these must not be overlooked. Another phase of this 
demand Is reflected in the remark of a young Bulgarian to the 
custodian of one of our reading rooms : I read French and Ger- 
man, and am learning English; but unless I can read a Bulgarian 
book once in a while, I forget my native tongue/* . . . There Is 
a duty resting upon us of extending the influence of the library, 
as a civic Institution, toward enlarging the life and broadening 
the Intellectual outlook of those who have recently entered the 
ranks of American citizenship without preliminary training in the 
English tongue. 

While recognizing these urgent calls, the preoccupation with the 
national standing of the library continued. Also in 1905, while ex- 
pressing their regret that no important bequests or gifts of money 
had been received during the year, the Trustees noted : 

It Is from such sources that the Library must provide the rare vol- 
umes and larger publications which it must possess In order to 
retain Its high rank among the libraries of the world. 

To compensate for the lack of gifts the Trustees reverted to the 
often tried and much debated practice of reducing purchases of 
fiction. Cutting down the number of novels always pleasingly in- 
creases the sense of self-righteousness from which certain Bostonl- 
ans perennially suffer. It was in this vein, so unlike that of George 
Ticknor, that the Trustees wrote In May 1906: 

In reference to the purchases of books of fiction, the Trustees have 

continued to confine such purchases to works of authors of recog- 
nized distinction or of deserved popularity, and to works of ob- 
vious intrinsic merit. It is quite impossible, with the funds at the 
disposal of the Trustees, to purchase any large portion of the cur- 
rent fiction of the day, or the number of copies required to meet 
a popular demand; nor Is It In the judgment of the Trustees de- 
sirable. The collections of the Library must be of more permanent 
value. It is not difficult for those who seek lighter literature to 
obtain It elsewhere. 

These constantly recurring problems were attacked with fresh 
energy in May 1908 when Josiah H. Benton became President of 
the Trustees, succeeding the Reverend James De Normandie who 
had filled the office in the months following the death on 1 5 October 


1907 of Solomon Lincoln. Benton Bad been a member of the board 
since 1 894, but as a younger man had necessarily been obliged to 
devote the greater part of his time to his own legal and railroad 
interests. These had prospered so satisfactorily that, upon becoming 
President, he was able to spend many hours of each week in the 
library, enthroned in the Trustees' Room, dealing energetically, 
and often In a highly personal manner, with matters not only of 
major policy but of minor routine administration. Although a man 
of action who had made his way in a competitive world, Benton's 
enthusiasm for the local history of New England led to several 
studies, privately printed by the Merrymount Press. As an avid book 
collector, who was also a parishioner of Trinity Church, he assem- 
bled an outstanding series of editions of the Book of Common 
Prayer, beginning with the 1 549 First Prayer Book of Edward VI. 
Moreover he sincerely loved the Public Library, and made it his 
major interest during the remaining nine years of his life. 

The City appropriation for the support of the library had been 
increased from $302,000 in 1901 to $325,000 in 1907. In 1908, 
when the Trustees' estimates called for $332,800, the City Council 
had instead cut the sum back to $310,000. Faced with diminution 
of sendee, Benton undertook to explain to the taxpayers in simple 
terms w r hat the library involved and what it did for them. Conse- 
quently the Fifty-seventh Annual Report, for 19081909, was cast 
in a wholly new form. The detailed statistics that had been pub- 
lished annually since the time of Justin Winsor were entirely 
omitted. The typography was altered, although one could hardly 
say improved, while the report itself was translated into popular 
terms intended to drive home the magnitude of the Library's opera- 
tions. There were six acres of rooms to be "kept in repair, cleaned, 
policed, heated, lighted and maintained in proper condition for 
library use," between nineteen and twenty miles of shelves, holding 
nearly a million books, nearly three and a half million catalogue 
cards, and about $8,000,000 worth of real and personal property. 

The property and plant of the library system is of value only as 
it is worked. The books, manuscripts, and other materials are 
useless except when they are being read and examined. And the 
public library plant, like every other, should be worked, if it is 


worth working at all, to the limit of its capacity. It would be as 

absurd to work the public library plant to half its capacity for 
profitable use as to work only half the spindles in a mill, or half 
the locomotives upon a railroad. The problem of working the Pub- 
lic Library, therefore, is the problem of bringing its books and 
other materials into the most general and extensive public use 
within the limit of the amount of money which the taxpayers are 
willing to pay for that use. 

The library cannot be worked without proper catalogues and a 
competent staff. Two hundred and nineteen persons were required, 
but these 85 men and 134 women were scarcely enjoying handsome 
salaries, for the average compensation including that of the Li- 
brarian and heads of departments was $670.45 a year. Excluding 
the dozen heads of departments, the average annual salary was 
$585.34, which amounted to an average of $610.12 for 75 men 
and $575.22 for 132 women. The highest salary paid to any branch 
librarian was $910.00. Nevertheless 77 of these employees were in 
the third, and highest, grade of educational qualification deter- 
mined by competitive examination which required the equivalent 
of a college course and familiarity with two foreign languages. The 
library's cooperation with schools, its assistance to readers, its exhi- 
bitions and lectures were described in justification of an annual 
appropriation of not less than $350,000 if the institution were to 
be worked to the limit of its capacity. 

The argument had its effect, for the following year the City ap- 
propriated very nearly the sum requested. Thus a salary increase 
brought the average compensation of the regular library staff to 
$719.43, being $903.66 for men and $630.45 for women employ- 
ees. The summary of library operations contained in the 1908 
1909 report was used by Benton as the basis of an address on "The 
Working of the Boston Public Library" given before the Beacon 
Society of Boston on 2 January 1909. Subsequently printed sepa- 
rately, this paper was revised for a widely distributed second edition 
in 1914. With a similar view to spreading popular information re- 
garding the library, Horace G. Wadlin prepared a 236-page history 
of the library that was published by the Trustees in December 1911. 

Only in 1916 were the last of the major decorative elements of 


the Copley Square library completed. Edwin A. Abbey's final work 
on the Holy Grail series was installed in January 1902. A year later 
Sargent's Dogma of the Redemption was unveiled, although he did 
not finally decorate the ceiling and side walls of the third floor gal- 
lery until 1916. The most obviously unfinished element was the main 
entrance, where great pedestals awaited the bronze groups that 
Augustus Saint-Gaudens found it so difficult to complete. As his 
death in 1907 brought to an end all hopes for his participation in 
the decoration of the library, the Trustees finally, in May 1910, 
commissioned Bela L. Pratt to execute the seated bronze figures that 
have since the summer of 1912 occupied the pedestals on either side 
of the central doorways. Upon the payment to Pratt of $30,000 for 
these, the total cost of the construction and decoration of the build- 
ing amounted to $2,558,559, Reserving $10,000 for the final pay- 
ment upon Sargent's work, the building account was closed and 
$14,640.44 that remained from the appropriations transferred to 
the sinking fund. 

The practical-minded had grumbled their fill about McKim's 
building, yet over the years it profoundly affected the lives of many 
who came to it looking only for books, and found as well a peace and 
beauty that was lacking in the crowded tenements where they Hved. 
The concept of a "palace for the people" had seemed far-fetched in 
the late eighties, yet to many young people it proved to be exactly 
that. The testimony of Mary Antin, whose autobiograpical The 
Promised Land was published in 1912, is too eloquent to require 

Off towards the northwest, in the direction of Harvard Bridge, 
which some day I should cross on my way to Radcliffe College, was 
one of my favorite palaces, whither I resorted every day after 

A low, wide-spreading building with a dignified granite front 
it was, flanked on all sides by noble old churches, museums, and 
school-houses, harmoniously disposed around a spacious triangle, 
called Copley Square. Two thoroughfares that came straight from 
the green suburbs swept by my palace, one on either side, con- 
verged at the apex of the triangle, and pointed off, past the Pub- 
lic Garden, across the historic Common, to the domed State House 
sitting on a height. 


It was my habit to go very slowly up the low, broad steps to the 
palace entrance, pleasing my eyes with the majestic lines of the 
building, and lingering to read again the carved inscriptions : Pub- 
lic Library Built by the People Free to All. 

Did I not say it was my palace? Mine, because I was a citizen; 
mine, though I was born an alien; mine, though I lived on Dover 
Street. My palace mine I 

I loved to lean against a pillar in the entrance hall, watching 
the people go in and out. Groups of children hushed their chatter 
at the entrance, and skipped, whispering and giggling in their 
fists, up the grand stairway, patting the great stone lions at the 
top . . . Spectacled scholars came slowly down the stairs, loaded 
with books, heedless of the lofty arches that echoed their steps. 
Visitors from out of town lingered long in the entrance hall, study- 
ing the inscriptions and symbols on the marble floor. And I loved to 
stand in the midst of all this, and remind myself that I was there, 
that I had a right to be there, that I was at home there. All these 
eager children, all these fine-browed women, all these scholars 
going home to write learned books I and they had this glorious 
thing in common, this noble treasure house of learning. It was 
wonderful to say, This is mine; it was thriUing to say, This is ours. 

I visited every part of the building that was open to the public. 
I spent rapt hours studying the Abbey pictures. I repeated to my- 
self lines from Tennyson's poem before the glowing scenes of the 
Holy Grail. Before the "Prophets" in the gallery above I was mute, 
but echoes of the Hebrew Psalms I had long forgotten throbbed 
somewhere in the depths of my consciousness. . . . 

Bates Hall was the place where I spent my longest hours in 
the library. I chose a seat far at one end, so that looking up from 
my books I would get the full effect of the vast arched reading- 
room. I felt the grand spaces under the soaring arches as a per- 
sonal attribute of my being. 

The courtyard was my sky-roofed chamber of dreams. Slowly 
strolling past the endless pillars of the colonnade, the fountain 
murmured in my ear of all the beautiful things in all the beautiful 
world. I imagined that I was a Greek of the classic days, treading 
on sandalled feet the glistening marble porticoes of Athens. I ex- 
pected to see, if I looked over my shoulder, a bearded philosopher 
in a drooping mantle, surrounded by beautiful youths with 
wreathed locks. Everything I read in school, in Latin or Greek, 


everything in my history books, was real to me here, in this court- 
yard set about with stately columns. 

Here is where I liked to remind myself of Polotzk, the better 
to bring out the wonder of my life. That I who was born in the 
prison of the Pale should roam at will in the land of freedom was 
a marvel that it did me good to realize. That I who was brought up 


to my teens almost without a book should be set down in the midst 
of all the books that ever were written was a miracle as great as 
any on record. That an outcast should become a privileged citizen, 
that a beggar should dwell in a palace this was a romance more 
thrilling than poet ever sung. Surely I was rocked in an en- 
chanted cradle. 

Mary Antin expressed vividly what many less gifted and less 
articulate young readers felt about the Public Library in the early 
years of this century. Although the Copley Square building minis- 
tered to the eye as well as the mind, that happy situation did not pre- 
vail in the branches, which were obsoletely, if not squalidly, housed. 


In 1899 there were ten branches with large permanent collections 
of books, five reading rooms, thirteen delivery stations, twenty-two 
engine-houses, a post office, five public schools and five other public 
institutions receiving books on deposit a total of sixty-one out- 
lying agencies of varying degrees of importance. In the early years 
of this century each annual report proudly raised the number over 
the preceding year. There were eighty-seven, then one hundred and 
seventeen, one hundred and fifty-six, one hundred and eighty-five, 
and finally, in 1905, two hundred and one. This somewhat boastful 
statistical trend was checked in 1 906, when the number came down 
to 199 and fires were reported in the South End and Charlestown 
Branches. It was also admitted that the new Reading Room at Cod- 
man Square, Dorchester, opened on 6 March 1905, was unique in 
being the "only one of the buildings under the control of the Trus- 
tees" in the branch system that had been designed chiefly for li- 
brary purposes. As an example of the general practice, the South 
End Branch, formerly in the basement of the English High School, 
was shifted in 1904 to quarters improvised in the building of the 
Every-Day Church on Shawmut Avenue. 

Benton brought the matter out squarely in the 1909-1910 re- 
port when he wrote: 

Boston should have the best equipped library system in the 
United States. Our citizens are proud of its Central Library build- 
ing, and we believe are satisfied with the administration and work- 
ing of the Library Department as a whole. But in respect to the 
branch system, which comes most directly in contact with those 
of our people who most need the Library, we are, on the whole, 
behind any other important city in the Union. We have no branch 
library building so constructed as to be operated with the utmost 
efficiency and economy and with the best service for the public. 

He described the reading room stations as "inadequate and incon- 
venient, badly situated for convenient use, ill-ventilated, and in 
general not creditable to a city of the wealth and population of 
Boston." The Examining Committee of the same year commented 

The burning of the municipal building in Jamaica Plain is to lead 
to the construction of a small but adequate independent branch li- 


brary building. Without waiting for a fire, the City should pro- 
vide such other buildings where the need is greatest. 

A year later the 1910-1911 Examining Committee said of the 
branches, "We would hide them from visitors to our City." Its re- 
port described children flattening their noses against the windows 
of the City Point Reading Room to see if there were room inside. 
With seats for fifty there would usually be a hundred children 
within, half of whom stood, leaning against the bookcases. The 
Committee spoke eloquently of the '"book hunger" of the children 
in Ward 6. 

Let any warm-hearted student of social conditions go to the 
North Bennet Street Reading Room at the hour when the boxes of 
books come in from the Central Library. Let the visitor stand for 
a half hour at the delivery desk, and watch the eager faces and 
outstretched hands of the children. The bright-eyed Italian boy, 
the keen-faced Jewish girl, the Greek or Portuguese is often 
ragged and ill-fed, and bears the marks of the home where severe 
poverty cramps and dwarfs the life; but if the boxes contained 
sweetmeats or toys, they would hardly be more joyously greeted 
than are these piles of rusty books. Among the children whom we 
call happier than those who fill North Bennet Street there are too 
many who must be coaxed or driven to taste the joy of reading. 
But in North Bennet Street, the worn, shabby book is the key to 
a palace of delight, and the crowded rooms are positively ablaze 
with the sheer happiness which radiates from the faces of the 
scores of reading boys and girls. There is surely no part of our 
City where the hunger for books is so keen and so universal as 
among the crowded tenements in the North End, where the chil- 
dren of twenty different nations are being made, well made or 
ill made, into American men and women. . . . 

It is difficult to state the conditions, the need, the opportunity 
too strongly. The Chairman of this sub-committee [Miss Heloise E. 
Hersey] will not soon forget a single incident which she witnessed 
in the squalid North Street Reading Room. The books were being 
distributed from the big wooden chest, while the children crowded 
about as at the unearthing of hid treasure. One little chap on 
crutches waited impatiently in the background. It seemed as if 
the last book had been taken out when his thin voice cried, "Oh, 
teacher, aint my Brownie book come?" There was a whole world 
of bitter disappointment in Ms tone. Then from the very bottom 


of the box his Brownie book was brought forth. He snatched it, 
tucked it under his arm, swung bravely off on his crutches to a 
corner of a table, seated himself, buttressed his elbows on the 
table and his head on his hands, and in two minutes had left 
behind him lameness and poverty and ignorance, and had become 
one who might well be the envy of a king. 

Such references to miserable conditions gradually had their effect 
upon the City Government. In July 1911 a new Jamaica Plain 
Branch the first independent building apart from the central li- 
brary built by the City exclusively for library purposes was com- 
pleted, at a cost of $33,000. On i January 1912, by the annexation 
of the town of Hyde Park to the city of Boston, the Hyde Park Pub- 
lic Library, occupying a respectable building completed in 1899, 
became a branch of the Boston Public Library system. The 1911- 
1912 Examining Committee reminded the City Government "that 
he gives twice who gives quickly," pointing out that 

The wistful throng of boys and girls who stand outside the closed 
doors of a crowded library in 1 9 1 2 will not be there in 1913, and 
by so much as the City fails in its duty to those particular children 
do they become a reproach to both the generosity and wisdom of 
the City. 

The problem was complicated by "adults who come to be warm and 
not to read, some of whom are not free from the influence of liquor" 
and who spat rather freely; but even so, new quarters were urgently 
needed. In 1913 conditions began to change for the better. A fine 
new North End Branch costing $86,000 was opened in February 
of that year, and a new building for the Charlestown Branch, cost- 
ing $71,400, in November. The City Point Reading Room moved 
to decent quarters in January 1914 and a new building for the East 
Boston Branch, provided at an expense to the City of $93,600, was 
ready for occupancy in April. The new buildings had their effect, 
for as a Branch Custodian reported in 1914: 

The adults' room is used by intelligent and ambitious men (women 
are in the minority), mechanics, carpenters, clerks, laborers, and 
students; and students come night after night. Loafers do not 
come, the room is too light and clean and open to view to attract 


It is fair to observe that these serious people came at least in part 
because of the sympathetic and intelligent attitude of the library 
staff. The custodian quoted above reported the following conversa- 
tion recorded by one of the attendants in that branch. 

A young man, a student who comes here, brought a friend to the 
library the other evening. This friend was a young Russian Jew, 
a student of electrical engineering, who had arrived in America 
that day. Our young friend introduced him to me and said: "I 
brought him to the Library first, because I wanted to show him 
what advantages American libraries offer to the student." I ad- 
dressed the young man in Yiddish, using the universal Jewish 
welcome: "Peace be unto you. From whence cometh a Jew?" I 
never saw a more surprised person. For a moment he couldn't 
answer me. Then he said, "Is it possible that in America they even 
employ Jews in public places and that these same Jews are neither 
afraid nor ashamed to speak Yiddish?" I then explained to him 
that in America, officials worked for and with the public rather 
than as in Russia, the public for the officials. 

Eager arrivals of this kind quietly found their way to the central 
library as well, for it was noted in 1915 that the cards referring to 
Shakespeare, Browning, Dumas, Arithmetic, Polish and Russian 
literature in the Bates Hall catalogue were so soiled and damaged by 
constant use that they required more frequent renewal than any 

In 1915, when one looked back over the twenty years that had 
passed since the opening of the Copley Square library, striking 
changes were to be noted, In 1894 the Library consisted of 457,740 
volumes in Boylston Street and 152,635 in the branches. Three 
hundred books were on open shelves in the old Bates HaU and none 
elsewhere. In 1915 there were 828,342 volumes in Copley Square, 
30,000 of which were on open shelves, as were the greater part of 
th 270,360 volumes in the branches. The total expense of the branch 
system in 1894 was $42,355; in 1915 it had reached $140,000. 
This was entirely proper, considering the popular character of the 
library, but it went far to explain why the Trustees' estimates for 
the current year totalled $417,688, with an additional $10,000 re- 
quested for increase in wages. It also answered the question of 
whether to plough the library field of the city wider and deeper, by 


showing that any increase in the number of reading rooms, without 
commensurate increase of financial resources, would simply place 
burdens upon the existing system. The Trustees wisely concluded: 

What the Library needs for the present, and from the point of 
economy and efficient administration, is enlarged equipment to 
make more effective the operation of its present agencies of public 
service, rather than the establishment of new agencies. 

Incidentally, it brought into perspective the library's policy on 
the purchase of scholarly books in relation to the other institutions 
of the neighborhood. The phenomenal growth of the Public Library 
in its early decades had lent plausibility to aspirations toward "com- 
pleteness," but with the equally phenomenal increase in the output 
of printing presses completeness became, in the twentieth century, 
a steadily less attainable or even desirable ideal. Moreover the 
Harvard College Library, although for a time outstripped by the 
Public Library, grew in steady relation to the expansion of Harvard 
University during President Eliot' s administration. When Professor 
Archibald Gary Coolidge was appointed Director in 1910 by Presi- 
dent Lowell, the University Library soon became beyond question 
one of the great scholarly libraries of the world, with prospects of 
future growth enhanced by the completion, in 1915, of the new 
building given in memory of Harry Elkins Widener. With Harvard 
just across the river, and with a recently enlarged and rejuvenated 
Athenaeum even nearer at hand, the folly of useless duplication be- 
came evident. Wadlin, in his 1914-1915 report, recognized this 
when considering that after buying replacements for worn-out books 
and providing for the continuation of serial publications, only $i i,- 
840 was left, on the average annually, for the purchase of other new 
books of every kind. 

It will be seen at once, that little money remains to establish 
and maintain in completeness special collections which otherwise 
might be perfected, especially in belles lettres, collections which a 
rich public library ought to possess, but which, if used at all, are 
used only by specialists or by small groups of scholars. It is in- 
evitable that all branches of literature cannot be completely cov- 
ered on the limited amount which we have at our disposal, and 
that choice must be made within rather narrow limits. . . . 


A library, limited in this way, although It may deplore the 
necessity, must leave to other and more richly endowed institu- 
tions, more richly endowed, at least, in proportion to the de- 
mand, the establishment of exhaustive collections in fields alien 
to its larger constituency. It must leave to libraries which have 
specialized in certain departments of literature and which aim to 
make such departments complete, the responsibility and the satis- 
faction of continuing these distinctive collections; and confine its 
own purchases to the representative volumes in largest demand 
in its own territory, so far as that demand can be gauged. This can 
be done with less heart burning now than ever before, since the 
inter-library method of lending often enables a library to obtain 
for the use of its borrowers a book which it has not been able to 
buy, or which it has refrained from buying because some other 
accessible library has it. Every library thus limited must also con- 
serve its resources in co-operation with other libraries in its vicin- 
ity, and thus avoid extensive duplications of purchases by institu- 
tions only a short distance removed from one another. 

A year later, Wadlin summed up the situation by stating that the 
library notwithstanding the fact that its founders, "scholarly 
men, mindful of the needs of scholars, placed upon its shelves many 
volumes, which, in the course of time, have become rare, and can 
be found In few public collections" must now "buy with the pur- 
pose of meeting proportionately, so far as possible, the requirements 
of a cosmopolitan population." This involved buying "not always 
the books of highest literary merit, but the books which are best 
adapted to meet the needs of readers of varying attainments and 
sometimes of untrained literary taste." 

By 1913 the stacks of the Copley Square library, which had 
seemed so spacious in 1895, were already overcrowded. Passageways 
were lined with extra bookcases; makeshift sections were tucked 
hither and yon, while books, boilers and bunkers were mixed con- 
fusedly together In the cellar. Finally in October 1915 the Trustees 
asked the City to take the three houses on Blagden Street, adjoining 
the library, as the site for a future addition. Mayor James M. Curley 
responded promptly, recommending an appropriation of $130,000 
for land and $170,000 for the building. The Street Commission- 
ers took the land equally promptly, at a cost of $122,500; demo- 
lition began in May 1916 and the building erected on the site was 


occupied in the autumn of 1918. This addition provided more stack 
space, working quarters for the Branch Department, and permitted 
the return to the library roof of the Printing and Binding Depart- 
ments, which had been from 1902 to 1912 in rented quarters in 
Stanhope Street, and since 1912 in Columbus Avenue. 

As early as 1910 the problem of pensioning and retiring employ- 
ees was concerning the Trustees, Mayor John F. Fitzgerald had 
called the board's attention to Chapter 619 of the Acts of 1910, 
which authorized cities and towns to establish retirement systems 
for their employees, and asked for an opinion as to the possible net 
gain or loss to the City both in terms of money and of efficiency, if 
such a system were applied to the Public Library. The terms of this 
act provided such meagre return as to discourage voluntary retire- 
ment before 70, "while the comparatively small weekly allowances 
accruing in numerous cases at that advanced age would hardly over- 
come the disinclination of the Trustees to force the retirement of 
faithful employees." Thus the Trustees felt that the act would be 
of no practical value to the library. As Chapter 1 13 of the Acts of 
1911 allowed the retirement on half-pay of Civil War veterans, in- 
capacitated for further service, after at least ten years' employment, 
Dennis McCarthy, a night watchman since 1888, was retired on 
2 November 1911, thus becoming the first library employee ever to 
receive a pension. 

In 1912 the Trustees urged special legislation allowing them to 
contribute "to the support of employees who become worn out in 
the service of the Library." This was only fair in view of the small 
salaries paid, which left so little margin above actual living expenses. 
The need was borne out by a branch custodian in Charlestown who 
died in the harness at 76, and an 84-year-old janitor who was still 
employed because he could not afford to quit. Such recommenda- 
tions were repeated annually without success, and as late as 1917 
nothing had been accomplished. Not even the modest proposal that 
library fines be allotted for a retirement fund met with any munici- 
pal support. 

Further disquietude was caused early in 1916 by the City's re- 
quest that the Trustees itemize all salaries in their budget for the 
year. As this smelled suspiciously like the political maneuver of 


1877 that had led to the loss of Justin Winsor, the Trustees re- 
minded the City Council that, since their incorporation in 1878, 
salary appropriations had invariably been made in a lump sum, 
leaving the individual salaries to be increased or decreased at the 
discretion of the board. Although the salaries were, in the end, ap- 
propriated in a lump sum, the City Council undertook to break down 
the $112,405 required for other expenses into 39 different items, 
varying in amount from one of $5.00, a premium on a bond, to 
$33,500 for "library." This required no less than 27 separate trans- 
fers or reappropriations during the year. Although this represented 
to the Trustees an entirely unwarranted and unnecessary infringe- 
ment upon their rights under the 1878 Act of Incorporation, they 
were even more concerned by a proposal made late in 1916 to place 
library employees under the rules of the Massachusetts Civil Service 
Commission. This would have involved the destruction of the care- 
fully planned system, established under Putnam in 1895, by which 
many employees were working toward graded promotions. In their 
1916-1917 report, the Trustees stated their views bluntly: 

This would in our judgment be a most serious blow to the ef- 
ficiency of the Library. It would practically remove the appoint- 
ment of these employees from the control of the Trustees. The 
power to appoint and to remove its employees which is given to the 
Corporation of the Library Trustees necessarily comprehends the 
power to fix the standard of qualification of the person or persons 
to be appointed. The power to fix the standard is the essence of 
the power to appoint. Without it the power of appointment is 
nothing. The Trustees are to say what qualifications the persons 
whom they desire to appoint are to have for the duties which the 
Trustees wish them to perform. Take away the power to provide 
the standard of qualification and you take away the essential 
power of appointment. It would be absurd to say that the Trustees 
may appoint their employees, and remove them, but that they 
shall only appoint such persons as are found to fill the standard 
of qualification established by somebody else upon an examination 
by somebody else, and yet that is precisely what the civil service 
rules accomplish. It is wholly abroad of the question whether such 
inclusion of the Library staff in the civil services rules is expedi- 
ent, as we are clearly of the opinion it is not. 


While this matter was still unresolved, Wadlin, on 10 November 
1916, presented his resignation. The Trustees, after an unavailing 
attempt to induce him to reconsider, reluctantly voted on 22 De- 
cember to accept it as of i July 1917, or at any earlier date when his 
successor might be appointed and qualify. On 26 January 1917 
the Trustees elected to succeed him Charles F. D. Belden, State 
Librarian of Massachusetts since 1909, who assumed his new duties 
on 15 June. 


Belden's Fourteen Years 

The service of the public library begins in the 
work with children. For them it is the chief gate- 
way to the world of books. Similarly the public li- 
brary of today can do much to increase the earn- 
ing power of the community and its members. 
Recent immigrants may be aided in becoming bet- 
ter Americans; the stranger may be made at home; 
the scholar, the inventor, the poet, the artist, can 
be helped toward creative work by the public li- 
brary. It is all things to all men. 


TOSIAH H. BENTON, President of the Public Library, died unex- 
tl pectedly on 6 February 1917, only eleven days after Charles F. D, 
Belden had been designated to succeed Horace G. Wadlin as Li- 
brarian. Benton's devotion to the Library could not have been shown 
more clearly than by the generous provision made for various phases 
o its welfare in his will. First of all he made immediate bequests 
of his great collections of the Book of Common Prayer and of books 
printed by John Baskerville, as well as of a sum of $100,000 to be 
held as "The Children's Fund," the income to be applied to the pur- 
chase of books for the young. The remainder of his property, after 
payment of specific bequests, was to be held by two trustees one of 
whom was Wadlin who were, after the death of Mrs. Benton, to 
turn it over to the Public Library. Half the income of this residuary 
bequest was to be used "for the purchase of books, maps, and other 
library material of permanent value and benefit for said library; 
meaning and intending hereby that such income shall be applied 
for books desirable for scholarly research and use/' The other half 
was to be added to principal and reinvested as an accumulating 


fund until a total of two million dollars had been reached, which 
was then "to be applied to the enlargement of the present central 
library building in Boston or to the construction of another central 
library building in such part of the City as may be then most desir- 
able for the accommodation of the people of said City/' 

Benton knew the shortcomings of the Boylston Street library, built 
by a group of inexperienced, though well-intentioned, commission- 
ers, and of the Copley Square building, which had been nominally 
the responsibility of the library Trustees but actually the personal 
creation of their President. He therefore provided that any building 
erected under his will was "to be constructed under the advice of 
the Librarian of the Library at that time in such manner as may be 
most desirable for efficient practical working of a library therein/' 
To prevent the City Council from resting on their oars and failing 
to make suitable appropriations for the library because of his gift, 
Benton provided that the income from the Children's Fund and for 
the scholarly books should "be applied for those purposes only in 
years when the City appropriates for the maintenance of the Boston 
Public Library at least three per cent (3% ) of the amount avail- 
able for department expenses from taxes and income in said City/' 
In any year when the City did not appropriate the amount specified, 
the income was instead to "be paid to the Rector of Trinity Church 
in the City of Boston to be by him dispensed in relieving the neces- 
sities of the poor/' Although the hundred thousand dollars for the 
Children's Fund was paid by the Benton estate in March 1919 to 
the Trustees of the Boston Public Library, the income has had to be 
paid over to the Rector of Trinity Church for the relief of the poor 
ever since, for at no time since the establishment of the fund have 
the City appropriations for the library fulfilled the three per cent 
requirement of Benton's will. Thus in spite of Benton's generous 
intentions the library was no better off in the years immediately 
following his death than it had been previously. 

Early in Belden's administration, the Trustees, with his hearty 
concurrence, determined to ask disinterested competent librarians 
from other parts of the country to look into the library's methods. 
In January 1918 Edwin H. Anderson, Director of the New York 
Public Library, and Arthur E. Bostwick, Librarian of the St. Louis 


Public Library, were invited to undertake this survey, with a third 
person of their own designation. Thus in May these gentlemen, with 
William H. Brett of the Cleveland Public Library, came to Boston 
for a week's intimate study of the library system. Although requested 
to consider questions of collections, classification, catalogues, serv- 
ice, buildings and equipment, they were sufficiently disturbed by 
the personal shortcomings of both the Trustees and the staff to de- 
vote most of their attention to the fundamental problems of human 
relations involved in the library system. They found the Trustees 
encroaching upon the duties of the Librarian, an ingrown and 
largely self-trained staff, poorly paid, suspicious of methods evolved 
elsewhere, and resentful of anyone brought in from without. While 
Belden was quite able to bring about useful changes in detail, the 
fundamental personal relations in the library required correction 
on a higher level. The conclusions in their report submitted on 1 8 
September 1918 were: 

i. The Boston Board of Trustees controls directly a large amount 
of administrative detail that in other libraries is under the charge 
of the librarian. It meets weekly, approves all book purchases by 
title and authorizes expenditures for supplies by itemized lists. It 
does not necessarily approve the Librarian's recommendations for 
appointments and promotions; and it, or its individual members 
receive and act upon applications and complaints from members 
of the staff, independently of action thereon by the Librarian. 
These things are done, so far as we know, in no other American 
library. The usual custom is for the Board to convene not oftener 
than once a month, and then either directly or through commit- 
tees to act on recommendations of the librarian in such a way as 
to give him large discretion, so that separate items need not neces- 
sarily be discussed or acted upon by the Board. This course seems 
to us most likely to develop a strong executive with initiative, such 
as is needed in every large institution, public or private. 

The Board of course, is the ultimate authority in the Library. 
The Librarian, however, is not only its executive, subject to its 
orders, but also its professional expert and adviser. If the Board is 
not willing to place matters of administrative detail in his hands 
and to follow his advice in all important professional matters, he 
should be replaced by an executive who does have the confidence 
of the Board. 


We believe that a lack of this confidential relation between the 
Board and its Librarian has been an injury to the Library in the 
past and is so at the present time. 

2. We find that the Library staff, although in the main com- 
posed of intelligent and interested assistants, and with some nota- 
ble instances of professional skill and knowledge, is somewhat out 
of touch with the trend of the library movement in other cities 
throughout the country. Few members of it have ever worked in 
any other library or have any familiarity with methods outside of 
their own institution. Few have been trained in library schools 
where the teaching of comparative methods gives a broad view. 
Although there is in Boston a library school of the first grade 
that at Simmons College there seems to have been no effort to 
make use of it in training material for the Public Library work. 

The feeling among a large number of the staff is distinctly 
hostile to the employment of persons outside of Boston. This under 
the conditions noted means very largely the employment of un- 
trained persons, often of limited education, receiving these in the 
lower grades of the staff and promoting them from time to time. 
This works well in some instances, but it is not a desirable general 
policy. A large public library should receive new blood from with- 
out continually and it should itself act as a feeder to other libraries. 
By continual exchange of assistants, some entering from without 
and others leaving, promotion is on the whole facilitated, contact 
with the library world is secured and stagnation due to in- 
breeding is prevented. Lack of such contact is particularly apt to 
foster an idea that an institution is operated, not for the benefit of 
the public, but for that of the employees themselves, that length 
of service is in itself a sufficient reason for promotion, and that 
an appointment from without is primarily an act of injustice to 
the staff. 

The committee suggested, as point three, either an affiliation with 
Simmons College or the establishment of a training agency within 
the library to improve the professional competence of the staff. In 
the fourth place, they made clear their awareness that some of the 
changes they recommended were in part dependent upon provision 
of adquate funds by the City. 

Professional librarians of training and experience cannot be at- 
tracted from other fields without the offer of adequate sala- 
ries. . . . But we would point out that adequate support is itself 


to a considerable extent dependent on popular appreciation of the 
Library's services. Public opinion has often forced, from a city gov- 
ernment, reluctant support of a public institution. Now there is a 
general opinion among librarians, whether well-founded or not, 
that the Boston Public Library has not of late years retained its 
relative standing among American libraries. Its position was once 
one of preeminence, but it is so no longer. We find that this opin- 
ion is shared to a greater or less degree by many citizens of Boston 
whose influence should count heavily in such matters as these. 
It is possible that indications of a change of policy, together with 
a clear demonstration that further change must be dependent on 
increased income, might be effective in placing the public opinion 
of the city so solidly behind the Library that adequate support 
would follow as a matter of course. 

The committee's five specific recommendations were the following: 

1. That the by-laws of the Board be amended so as to admit of 
monthly meetings and that the routine of these meetings be so 
changed as not to require approval of all purchases or appoint- 
ments in detail by the entire Board. 

2. That the Board discourage, by formal resolution, the recep- 
tion of complaints or requests from members of the staff, singly 
or collectively, either by the whole Board, or by individual mem- 

3. That effort be made to develop in the staff a feeling of profes- 
sional esprit de corps as librarians and to discourage the attitude 
that consideration is due its members as a local body of municipal 
office holders; that high-grade positions be filled freely where nec- 
essary by appointments from without, and that long service in one 
grade be not regarded as prima facie evidence of fitness for promo- 
tion to a higher grade. 

4. That for all library positions, other than those of messengers 
and the clerical and janitorial force, preliminary training or ex- 
perience be a sine qua non, and that steps should be taken to 
give inexperienced persons an opportunity for training, either in 
direct connection with the Library or through some school in af- 
filiation with it. 

5. That an effort be made through well-considered publicity to in- 
form the public with regard to the benefits of these changes of 
policy and of the fact that these require, for their complete realiza- 
tion, an increased income. 


In January 1919 arrangements were completed with Simmons 
College for the organization and supervision by the college of a 
course in reference service at the library, for the admission without 
charge of designated library employees to any regular Simmons 
course in library training, and for the sending of college students to 
the library for instruction in work with children and for unpaid 
practical work to be given by the head of the Children's Department 
of the Public Library. The need for such opportunity was indicated 
by the fact that within the ten years from 1908 to 1918, 156 per- 
sons, only four of whom had a college education, had been promoted 
within the library service, while only 36 had been appointed from 
outside. Fourteen of the 36 had had a college education, and two 
of them library school training as well. During the first year of the 
cooperative arrangement with Simmons College, 87 members of the 
library staff took advantage of the opportunities offered. Somewhat 
later, in 1927, the library established a training class of its own for 
applicants for positions. In view of the fact that no tuition was 
charged, it was expected that graduates, if appointed to a position, 
would remain in the service of the library for at least two years. 

Low salaries remained a perennial problem. Indeed most of the 
library's difficulties in the first quarter of the present century had 
arisen from the need of spreading too little money over too large an 
area, with consequent skimping sometimes on books, sometimes on 
buildings, but more often on people. The total city appropriation for 
the library in 1907 had been $325,000. In 1909 Benton's estimated 
minimum of $350,000 was almost reached, and from that point 
onward, although there was no retrogression, advances came slowly. 
In 1916 $409,080 was appropriated and $424,476 the following 
year. Even so, with wartime prices, many of the library staff were 
forced to work nights and Sundays in order to earn living wages. 
In 1918 the Trustees consequently requested an increase to improve 
the situation. That raised the total appropriation to $491,940. Suc- 
cessive efforts in this direction, combined with the higher cost of 
all commodities during the post-war inflation, brought appropria- 
tions in 1919 to $546,594, in 1920 to $667,936 and in 1921 to 
$747,120. Belden in 1920 pointed out that the library employees 
found themselves "in far too many cases, literally stranded, in an 


amazed and wondering frame of mind," asking not so much "What 
am I worth?" but "What shall I do?" As a provision against actual 
want, it was imperative to increase the worst paid in a higher ratio 
than the more skilled, even though this involved a basic unfairness 
to the able, better educated, and more energetic, who were "justly 
entitled to recognition in proportion to the value of their services." 
The often repeated pleas for some equitable pension plan finally 
resulted in the library staff benefitting under the Pension Bill rela- 
tive to the retirement of certain city employees, passed by the Massa- 
chusetts Legislature in 1922. The world was so far out of joint in 
these days of Harding-Coolidge prosperity that, even when the an- 
nual library appropriations passed the million mark, as they did in 
1926, the library employees were still inadequately paid. In 1928 
the Trustees complained that "it becomes more and more difficult 
to fill vacancies in the library staff at the salaries now paid" and that 
if the library "is to maintain its standing and to carry on to higher 
levels the quality of its service, the salary scale must be advanced to 
keep pace with that current in other American libraries of the first 
rank." A year later, the Examining Committee pointed out that "ill 
paid work is poor economy" in recommending careful consideration 
of the whole question of salaries. 

An adequate supply of books proved an equally pressing problem. 
As Belden wrote in 1919: 

The demand for more books is continuous and insistent. Replace- 
ments must constantly be made of the worn-out but worthy vol- 
umes both of non-fiction and fiction; many collections, already 
noteworthy, must be enlarged whenever opportunity serves; serial 
continuations, ever increasing in number, must be kept up; books 
for the student and scholar in all intellectual fields must be added 
as published. All this implies a careful selection in order that a wise 
distribution may be made to the various departments and that a 
proper perspective be maintained. An altogether too meagre balance 
of available funds is thus left for the purchase of children's books 
and popular fiction. 

Although Benton's bequests promised some eventual relief so far as 

scholarly and children's books were concerned, the income from 
trust funds amounted only to a little over $20,000 at this time. 


Therefore not only salaries and maintenance, but a large share of 
the book purchases if they were to be made had to be squeezed 
out of the City appropriations. For 1921 the Trustees asked for 
$100,000 for the purchase of books, an increase of $40,000 over the 
previous year. They got it, and the additional sum expended caused 
an increase in circulation of over 233,000 during the year. In 1922 
a similar sum was again provided, but its buying power was sadly 
reduced by the steadily increasing prices of books. Even in 1926, 
when the book appropriation first reached $125,000, Belden wrote: 

The increasing appropriations for the purchase of books have 
scarcely kept pace with the advancing demands upon the li- 
brary; the failure of a corresponding increase in the endowment 
of the Library from private sources has caused it to lose ground in 
the effort to maintain its foremost place among the scholarly pub- 
lic libraries in the country. 

The Trustees in 1927, while sadly comparing their endowment of 
$755,000 with the $22,647,000 of the Reference Department of 
the New York Public Library, pointed out the inevitable relation 
between the circulation and acquisition of books. During the year 
they had purchased 98,487 volumes, while the Cleveland Public 
Library had acquired 201,174. In the same period, Boston's circula- 
tion increased by 206,250 while Cleveland's jumped by 807,005. 
Such arguments eventually proved so effective that in 1931 the city 
appropriated for books over $190,000, $145,000 of which was spent 
upon those needed for the branch libraries. Added to the $20,- 
547.23 available from trust funds, the 1931 total book expenditure 
of $211, 103. 24 represented a record in the history of the library 
to that time. 

During the twenties and early thirties, the city provided not only 
more books for the branches but appropriated substantial sums to- 
ward the improvement of their buildings. Belden's report for 1920- 
1921 called attention to the needs of the system by a substantial ap- 
pendix that provided details of the history and character of each 
of the sixteen branches and fourteen reading rooms. The highest 
circulation of all 124,139 was in the West End Branch, which 
served a population of twenty-two different nationalities. The bal- 
conies of this fine old church were converted into a Children's Room, 


while on the floor adults crowded in to read books in Yiddish, Rus- 
sian and Italian, as well as English. The East Boston, South Boston, 
South End, Uphams Corner and Warren Street Branches all had 
annual circulation in excess of 100,000 volumes. 

Although the use of the branch libraries was highly satisfactory, 
their quarters often left much to be desired. An attractive new West 
Roxbury Branch, dedicated on 17 April 1922, made the accommo- 
dations in other regions seem even less suitable. The West Roxbury 
Branch, designed in a simple Georgian style by Oscar O. Thayer, 
with most of its activities concentrated on one floor, save for a lec- 
ture hall and related staff quarters in the basement, represented a 
considerable advance in convenience and appearance over the 
branches of the previous decade. The Charlestown Branch, opened 
in 1913, and the East Boston Branch, opened in 1914, had been 
two-story and basement buildings of rectangular form, oddly resem- 
bling packing cases. There was nothing of striking interest in their 
designs; moreover their plan required constant staff coverage on at 
least two of the three levels, and sometimes in the basement as well. 
The West Roxbury Branch which is still, over thirty years after 
completion, a good library building, opened a new stage in the plan- 
ning of Boston Public Library branches. The 1921-1922 Examin- 
ing Committee, in commending this improvement, remarked that 
"as some seven-eighths of the circulation originates in the branches 
and reading rooms, it is clear that the question of a satisfactory 
model for the branch buildings is one of primary importance." Six 
years later the proportion was even higher, for the Trustees' report 
for 1927 stated: "The Branches are the channels through which 
nine-tenths of the circulation of the Library is carried on; they must 
not be allowed to become clogged/' The 1929 Examining Commit- 
tee, of which Boston's perennial Mayor, James Michael Curley, was 
(while between terms in City Hall) a member, considered the in- 
adequacies of branch library buildings. Mr. Curley spoke up vigor- 
ously concerning this unfortunate situation; he considered it un- 
fortunate and said that something should be done about it. Shortly 
thereafter he became Mayor again. Through his personal initiative, 
a special appropriation of $200,000 was received in March 1930 as 
the first installment on a construction program. With this aid mod- 


ern buildings were provided for the Parker Hill and Mattapan 
Branches to replace wholly inadequate rented quarters. When these 
were nearing completion in the spring of 1931, a second appropria- 
tion of $200,000 permitted the construction of new buildings in the 
Faneuil district of Brighton, the Boylston district of Jamaica Plain, 
and the Jeffries Point district of East Boston. In 1932 Mayor Cur- 
ley proposed a third appropriation of similar size, but because of 
the economic depression no further action was taken for almost two 
decades. The five branches built with Mayor Curley's 1930 and 
1931 appropriations have, like the West Roxbury Branch of 1922, 
continued to be serviceable buildings. As they were the work of dif- 
ferent architects, they were in a variety of styles. With the exception 
of Thomas Williams's Jeffries Point Branch, they were one story 
and basement buildings. The Parker Hill Branch was designed in 
the Gothic manner of Cram and Ferguson; the Boylston (now Con- 
nolly) Branch by Maginnis and Walsh was a mixture of Tudor and 
Jacobean; the Mattapan Branch by Putnam and Cox was of Geor- 
gian inspiration, while the Faneuil Branch was designed by Kilham, 
Hopkins and Greeley in what was considered "modern" at the time. 
In the Mattapan and Faneuil Branches all public areas were placed 
on one floor level. 

As early as 1918 the Trustees urged an appropriation to estab- 
lish a business branch in the downtown area, but a dozen years 
passed before this desirable addition to the library's service became 
possible. Since 1898 when Herbert Putnam brought Worthington C. 
Ford to Boston to create the Department of Documents and Statis- 
tics, the needs of the business man in the Public Library had been 
recognized as of equal validity with those of the scholar, the general 
reader, or the immigrant seeking adjustment to his new home. The 
establishment in 1 9 19 of an experimental current Federal Document 
Information Service, which brought Belden the hearty congratula- 
tions of Governor Coolidge, was another step in making the Public 
Library of use to those concerned in public and private business. An 
even more significant event was the agreement reached with Har- 
vard University in 1927 for the consolidation of the material relat- 
ing to business in the Public Library and in the George F. Baker 
Library of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administra- 


tion. The Business School had recently occupied new and ample 
quarters near Soldiers Field in Brighton, across the Charles from the 
remainder of the university. As the Baker Library was within the 
city limits of Boston, the idea of designating it a branch of the Bos- 
ton Public Library and transferring to it material relating to the 
past history of business, retaining in Copley Square only 'live books" 
on the practical aspects of business, had obvious advantages for both 
parties to the agreement. Through an arrangement with the Boston 
Medical Library in 1906, technical books of slight interest to the 
general reader had been placed where their usefulness would be en- 
hanced by association with others of their kind, under the care of 
an expert and specialized staff. The cooperative tie with the Baker 
Library similarly placed certain infrequently consulted books of 
purely historical interest in the location where they were most likely 
to be used. An important feature of the agreement was the pledge 
of Harvard University to "cooperate in the establishment, as a branch 
of the Boston Public Library, of a business reference library in the 
down town section of Boston, to be established, operated and main- 
tained by and in cooperation with the two Libraries/' The following 
year Louis E. Kirstein, a Trustee of the Public Library since 1919, 
who was elected its President in June 1928, offered to give a build- 
ing for use as a downtown business branch as a memorial to his 
father, Edward Kirstein. The location proposed the site of the 
abandoned Police Station 2 on City Hall Avenue was not only 
city property but convenient to the centers of business activity. Mr. 
Kirstein's generous offer was accepted by the Trustees on 21 De- 
cember 1928, and on 7 May 1930 the new building, whose facade 
echoed the central pavilion of Charles Bulfinch's destroyed Crescent 
on Franklin Street, was opened for public use. The Business Branch, 
furnishing magazines, business services, trade and city directories, 
and statistical yearbooks, occupied the first two floors of the Kirstein 
Memorial Library, while the third floor was devoted to a general 
branch library for adults. The response was immediate, for during 
the first months of operation the attendance averaged 438 readers 
a day. The load was made even heavier than had been anticipated 
by the presence, in addition to the business man for whom it had 
been designed, of unemployed victims of the October 1929 crash 


who were sensibly studying to prepare themselves for a better job 
when one came along. 

During Belden's administration the Copley Square building, hav- 
ing passed the quarter century mark, proved a frequent cause of 


concern, both because of its state of repair and of its restricted 
adaptability to the changing needs of the Library. In 1920 an Open 
Shelf Room, containing some 2,500 volumes of nonfiction, selected 
for the special convenience of "those persons who wish to find with 
the least trouble something good to read/' was established as an ex- 
periment. It met with a good response, but as the only space avail- 
able for it was unfortunately a dingy little first-floor room to the right 
of the main staircase, originally intended by McKim for the location 
of a public toilet, its proper development was well nigh impossible. 
The 1921-1922 Examining Committee thought that it was "not too 
early to begin considering plans for the new Library building that 
must inevitably be erected in a few years/' They wrote: 

We have observed with some apprehension the inadequacy of 
the Central Library building and many of the quarters provided 
for the branches and reading rooms. In the Central Library the 
Newspaper and Periodical Rooms are at times uncomfortably 
crowded. There is already evidence of pressure on the Infonna- 


tion Bureau, the Document Service Room and the new Open Shelf 
Room. On the second floor the Children's Room is unequal to the 
demands made upon it in busy hours. The book stacks, even with 
the relief afforded by the annex, will not provide for the probable 
accessions of more than a very limited period. The catalogue space 
in Bates Hall is almost exhausted. The Statistical Department is 
hidden away in cramped and somewhat inaccessible quarters and 
the Industrial Arts Collection is housed on the top floor with the 
Fine Arts Collection and made subsidiary to it, although of an 
essentially different character. The Lecture Hall, unattractive, 
badly ventilated and poorly equipped, is inferior to the halls in 
many high schools and municipal buildings. All of these are grow- 
ing departments or features of the Library and the future is likely 
to see much greater congestion in all of them, to say nothing of 
the creation of new departments. 

One solution would be, they felt, the use of the Copley Square li- 
brary for special collections and exhibitions, thus setting aside "the 
whole interior of this beautiful structure ... for serious research 
in an atmosphere of artistic distinction," and the addition of an ad- 
jacent and connected new building for "the collections which are of 
more general service and those departments that are frequented by 
the general public." A year later the Examining Committee was 
considering a suggestion for "book storage building, planned purely 
for utility at some point within a reasonable distance of the Central 
Library, where land values are low, but sufficiently central for con- 
venience, to which little-used books for special uses could be trans- 
ferred, and to which readers could be directed." At the same time 
Belden urged the addition of two floors to the Blagden Street annex 
in order to transfer the Catalogue and Ordering Departments to 
new quarters and thus release valuable space on the ground floor 
for public purposes. 

In an article on "The Function of the Public Library," Belden 
had observed: 

The service of the public library begins today, as it has for years 
past, in the work with children. For them it is the chief gateway to 
the world of books. . . . Similarly the public library of today 
can do much to increase the earning power of the community and 
its members. . . Recent immigrants may be aided in becoming 
better Americans; the stranger may be made at home; the scholar, 


the inventor, the poet, the artist can be helped toward creative 
work by the public library. It is all things to all men. 

The success of this inclusive ideal was not aided by a building that 
besides being too small was falling into disrepair. It was overcrowded 
in 1922; by 1925 there were leaks in the roof, the main ventilating 
system had long since been abandoned, the heating was only thirty 
per cent efficient, the elevators were shaky, and the book railway 
and pneumatic tube system had so completely broken down that it 
was necessary to hire additional messengers to do their work. The 
1924-1925 Examining Committee recommended an annual appro- 
priation of $50,000 for extraordinary repairs "until the property is 
built up to a standard that can be maintained" on the ground that 
constant pruning of appropriations had produced cumulative neglect 
until the time had come "when money must be spent in larger 
amounts upon this part of the City's property, or paralysis of its 
function will result." Moreover the building was not just shabby 
and in disrepair; it had, in addition, become a singularly uncomfort- 
able place for quiet work. 

In Boylston Street there had been a marked division between cir- 
culating and reference functions. The Lower Hall was given over 
to circulation, while Bates Hall, upstairs, was a reference library. 
The constantly growing demand for books for home use tended to 
wipe out the distinction between the two, and in Copley Square it 
wholly disappeared, so that there was simply one great circulating 
library, containing, however, many volumes restricted to "hall use/' 
The new Bates Hall, after initial respect for its magnificence had 
been diminished by familiarity, drew more than its share of winter 
readers who chiefly wished to keep warm and had no other place 
to do so, just as the charming arcades of the courtyard were in sum- 
mer too often preempted by unsavory characters who paused at 
length to refresh themselves in the shade after visiting the library's 
public toilets. Joshua Bates in 1852 had expressed the belief that 
"when it is desired to know something of a young man, the question 
will be asked, 'Does he frequent the library?' " Seventy or eighty 
years later, an affirmative answer would not necessarily have im- 
plied what Joshua Bates anticipated. In addition, there were in Bates 
Hall a steadily increasing number of students who used no other 


library facilities than the chairs and tables. Many of them were quiet 
enough, but, as Belden pointed out in 1925, "the law students often 
become so boisterous in discussing the cases which they are studying 
that strong measures are sometimes necessary to muffle them." Then 
there were the puzzle and contest fiends. During the second week in 
January 1925 there was, Belden wrote, standing room only in Bates 

The reference books proved to be such a magnet to those who were 
seeking the solution to prize crossword puzzles that at one time 
432 persons were counted in the room, although it has chairs for 
only 310. Those who could not find seats, all converted for the 

moment into earnest students, were clustered in swarms about the 
walls like bees in a flower-garden. There was a quiet buzzing, but 
no disorder. This earnestness was very destructive to the reference 
books and cost the Library three copies of Webster's "International 
Dictionary," to say nothing of extensive bindery repairs. 

This nuisance proved far from temporary, for two decades later his- 
torical puzzles were causing equally useless theft, mutilation and 
damage to local histories that were less easily replaced than Web- 
ster's dictionaries. All this tended to drive quiet readers to the Spe- 
cial Libraries on the third floor. Even there they were not left in 
peace, for, as the contents of the special collections were included 
in the general card catalogue, readers wanting ordinary books would 
rush to the third floor when circulating copies were not available. 
Thus a school child, wishing to take a copy of Hamlet home, might 
appear in the Barton Library and demand a quarto, to his own frus- 
tration, the annoyance of the staff and the disturbance of those read- 
ers who had fled from the budding lawyers of Bates Hall. 

The Special Libraries staff were thus confronted with uncommon 
difficulties in preventing both general readers and undergraduate 
students from promiscuously invading areas designed for specialized 
use. As originally planned, the third floor had been designed for 
the safe and spacious accommodation of the Barton, Ticknor, Prince, 
and Bowditch libraries and other equally valuable books and manu- 
scripts. The exigencies of space had, however, diluted the original 
plan so far as to place there all books dealing with fine arts, music, 
technology, many classes of government documents, all maps and 


oversize books of every class. There was consequently a pressing need 
for a large closed room, in which to bring together and give adequate 
protection to the rarer books from various parts of the library. The 
most reasonable solution involved refitting the North Gallery to 
accommodate the special collections, shifting the music library into 
the existing Barton-Ticknor room, and turning the Music Room into 
a Treasure Room with cases designed for the fire-proof housing and 
ready exhibition of the greatest rarities. 

Major repairs during 1925 and 1926 placed boilers, elevators, 
ventilating system and the book railway in proper working order, 
while in December 1927 the City Council appropriated $250,000 
for the improvements contemplated on the third loor. This recon- 
struction was completed during 1929 in spite of the necessity of 
spending some $200,000 additional during that year to explore and 
repair weakened piles that were jeopardizing the foundations of the 
library. The new Treasure Room, equipped with cases that har- 
monized with the dignified architectural character of the room, natu- 
rally lent itself to exhibitions that brought the varied rarities of the 
library to popular notice. 

Increased attention was also given to making the resources of the 
library known through popular publications. In the fourth series of 
the Quarterly Bulletin, beginning in 1919, news of the library and 
information not purely bibliographical was introduced, while manu- 
scripts and broadsides of historical interest were reproduced. Be- 
ginning in January 1924 it was replaced by a Monthly Bulletin of 
Recent Books, which was in turn superseded in March 1926 by a 
monthly entitled More Books, which in addition to the selected list 
of new books carried in each issue several articles relating to the 
book treasures and manuscripts of the library. Lindsay Swift, who 
as Editor of Library Publications had been responsible for the Bulle- 
tin since 1896, died in 1921 after more than forty-three years serv- 
ice in the Library. With the first issue of More Books, Dr. Zoltan 
Haraszti, previously an assistant in the Special Libraries Department, 
became Editor. The new publication, which was given considerably 
wider distribution than the earlier Bulletin, was characterized by 
articles frequently by the Editor which, although scholarly in 
content, were aimed to excite the interest of the frequenters of the 


library rather than to inform the specialist. Accounts of the library's 
manuscripts and incunabula, designed to explain the literary signifi- 
cance of the contents, proved highly useful in attracting interest to 
the exhibitions in the newly constituted Treasure Room. 

Charles F. D. Belden died on 24 October 1931 while still in his 
fifties. The fourteen years of his administration, producing, as they 
had, steady progress along established lines rather than any out- 
standing innovations, had done credit to the institution. In 1925 he 
had been elected President of the American Library Association 
the first Librarian of the Boston Public Library to hold that office 
since Justin Winsor half a century before and in 1926 Harvard 
University gave him the honorary degree of Master of Arts. Perhaps 
the most significant aspect of his fourteen years is the steadily in- 
creasing support given the Public Library by the City Government 
during bad years as well as good. In 1917 the total appropriations 
were $424,476; in 1929 they were $1,171,544 and in 1930 $i,- 
173,144. In 1931, notwithstanding the depression, they reached 
$1,262,504, plus special appropriations of $480,750. This was sin- 
gularly fortunate, for the widespread unemployment of the early 
thirties was to throw even heavier burdens than before upon the 


Depression and Consolidation 

It has been truly said that "the rediscovery o 
the Public Library is a by-product of the depres- 


HPHE UNEXPECTED and much regretted vacancy created by 
JL the sudden death of Charles F. D. Belden was filled within the 
month by the appointment as Director of Milton Edward Lord, Di- 
rector of Libraries at the State University of Iowa. A member of the 
Harvard class of 1919, whose undergraduate studies had been inter- 
rupted by military service during World War I, Mr. Lord had 
worked in the reference department of the Harvard College Library 
before going to Rome in 1926 as Librarian of the American Acad- 
emy. From this post he had become a member of the group of 
American librarians charged by Pope Pius XI with the beginnings 
of the reorganization of the Vatican Library. When he took office as 
Director of the Boston Public Library on i February 1932, he as- 
sumed problems and responsibilities of bewildering complexity. The 
administration of a great library rarely permits its director to enjoy 
a peaceful and leisurely acquaintance with the books in his custody, 
but this was more than usually true of the Boston Public Library 
at the close of its eighth decade. The Copley Square building was 
overcrowded, inconvenient, and in doubtful repair. The condition 
of many of the branches, through which the greater part of the li- 
brary's work was accomplished, left much to be desired. The 1918 
survey by Messrs. Anderson, Bostwick and Brett had, without minc- 
ing words, indicated the deficiencies of the library in organization 
and professional competence. Substantial progress had been made 
during Belden's administration. Under Capen and Jewett the aver- 


age annual growth of the book collection had been 9,006 volumes, 
a figure that mounted strikingly to 17,692 during the decade of 
Justin Winsor's superintendency. From 1878 to 1894 the average 
increase was 17,021, while during Herbert Putnam's administra- 
tion it rose to 26,419. Under Whitney and Wadlin (1899-1917) 
it relapsed to 23,535, but during Belden's fourteen years the book 
collections grew by an annual average of 28,875 volumes. The city 
government had nobly done its part by more than doubling the li- 
brary appropriations during these fourteen years, and more than 
tripling those for the purchase of books. Against $50,000 provided 
by the city for this purpose in 1917, the 1931 appropriation 
amounted to $175,000. This happy situation was rudely altered in 
1932, when the backwash of the 1929 crash brought simultaneously 
the need for stringent economy in municipal government and a 
vastly increased use of the library by victims of the depression who 
had no other means of passing their days. 

Those who love to measure and judge in purely quantitative terms 
might well reflect upon the meaning of the Boston Public Library 
circulation statistics over ten years of depression and gradual re- 


of increase or Percentage 

decrease over of increase 

preceding years over 1929 






Number of 

books lent to 






+ 5 
+ *3 
+ 18 







+ 5 

+ 20 

+ 26 
+ 22 

+ II 


for purchase 

of books 











The peak of increasing use reached in 1932-1933 suggests not so 
much a widening taste for literature or a growing appreciation of 
the library's services as the stark fact that in a period of widespread 
unemployment large numbers of men and women turned to the li- 


brary because they had no other way of using their time. In 1929 
45% of the users of the branch libraries were adults and 55% chil- 
dren. In 1932 the figures were exactly reversed. Although city ap- 
propriations inevitably declined the 1931 figure of $1,239,257 
was not reached again until 1941 the library stoutly sought to 
meet larger demands with smaller resources. When it became ap- 
parent in the autumn of 1932 that some 78,000 individuals many 
of them children had lost their library cards because of non-pay- 
ment of fines, a temporary moratorium was declared. During Fine 
Cancellation Week, from 17 to 22 October 1932, 30,922 borrow- 
ers cards were renewed, 3,642 seemingly lost books were recovered, 
and 2,219 cards were issued to those who had not previously been 
borrowers. The Examining Committees from 1932 to 1934 strongly 
urged "that the facilities of the Library be at least maintained, if 
not increased; and certainly not contracted/* for "the rediscovery 
of the Public Library is a by-product of the depression." 

A second point to be derived from the circulation statistics of the 
thirties is that one cannot greatly increase the reading of books with- 
out constant and generous replacement of one's stock. The steady 
decline in circulation from 1934 onward may be attributed quite 
as much to the smaller appropriations for buying books as to the 
expanding employment and gradually increasing economic health 
of the community. Books, when used, wear out. Unlike people, they 
do not benefit from wide and varied human contacts. Even Dante, 
Sterne, Keats and Thoreau appear more beguiling at least to those 
who have not previously been honored by their friendship in clean 
suits than spotted. In 1932 the book stock of the Boston Public Li- 
brary amounted to 1,631,422 volumes. Therefore, acting on the 
logic of the young woman who refused to consider giving her father 
a book for Christmas because he already had one, economy-minded 
city authorities cut the library's 1933 appropriations for the pur- 
chase of books from $160,000 to $75,000. Their reasoning was un- 
fortunate, for the reduction came at the moment when thousands of 
books were literally being worn out from greatly increased use, and 
replacements were more urgently needed than ever. Moreover, the 
imposing collections of the central library in Copley Square ob- 
scured the fact that in the branches, which accounted for nine 


tenths of the library's circulation, books were being discarded faster 
than new ones were added. Upon this point Mr. Lord wrote in his 
1937 report: 

It seems so self-evident that a library must have books that one 
wonders what further can be said in support of such an axiom. 
Yet one frequently hears the query as to why more books are 
needed anyway. The Library has enough volumes in its system al- 
ready. In the central library, for instance, there are 1,195,704 
volumes as compared with the 504,977 volumes in the branch 
libraries. Why should not some of those in the central library be 
turned over to the branch libraries? 

But who wants_to choose his reading from the sermons of the 
Reverend Cotton Mather or the Bay Psalm Book or the First Folio 
of Shakespeare? Who wants to read volume after volume of speci- 
fications of German patents or of the Sessional Papers of the House 
of Commons in the nineteenth century or of the Atti dell Ac- 
cademia del Lincei of fifty years ago? Who wants to read Boston, 
Worcester and Springfield city directories for 1875 or the Boston 
Transcript for 1833 or Who's Who in America for 1903? Who 
wants to read Andreas Vesalius De humani corporis fabrica libri 
septem (Basle, 1555) or Francois Apperfs L'art du conserver, 
pendant plusieurs annees, toutes les substances animales et vege- 
tales (Paris, 18 10) or Friedrich Engel's Die Lage der Arbeitenden 
Klasse in England (Leipzig, 1845)? 

It is of items of the above sort in single copies only, for the 
most part that the excellent book collections of the central li- 
brary are made up. They do not contain, available for use in mul- 
tiple branch libraries, multiple copies of books of the sort which 
the average citizens of Boston frequenting the branch libraries 
wish and need for their regular reading. What the central library 
has is the vast accumulation of materials which are needed by the 
students or the scholar engaged in serious research and investiga- 
tion. And for the upkeep and further development of its collec- 
tions of this sort it has special support in the form of trust funds 
which have been given for the purpose and for no other. 

On the other hand, it is on the branch libraries that there falls 
the brunt of the book demands of the citizens of Boston at large. 
Ninety per cent of the books "borrowed from the entire library sys- 
tem are asked for and obtained from the branch libraries. Yet to 
meet this demand the branch libraries have book collections which 


total only thirty per cent of the book holdings of the entire li- 
brary system. And the discouraging feature is that the number of 
volumes in the branch libraries is decreasing rather than increas- 
ing. In 1935 the branch libraries had to discard as worn out 
4,257 volumes more than they could add; in 1936 they fell short 
by 9,091 volumes; in 1937, by 3,930 volumes. In other words, 
in 1935 they discarded 53,996 books and added only 49,739; in 
1936 they discarded 41,859 volumes and added only 32,768; in 
1937, they discarded 44,346 books and added only 40,416. 

This eminently reasonable statement concluded with a plea for an 
annual book appropriation of $150,000 as "the minimum amount 
with which the Library can function to advantage" on the basis of 
past experience. It was not heeded, for the book appropriations 
dropped to $73,875 in 1938, to $55,000 in 1939, and only reached 
$90,000 in 1946. For the years 1947 to 1949 they amounted to 
$125,000 the level of the 1926-1928 period. In 1950 they rose 
to $150,000, in 1951 to $230,000, and they were in 1953, through 
the enlightened activity of Mayor John B. Hynes, to rise to $277,- 
500. Alas, the fantastic increases in the price of books have made 
the gain to the Library more apparent than real, as anyone who 
tries to balance his own checkbook these days can readily under- 
stand. Because of this, the average annual rate of growth during the 
first twenty years of Mr. Lord's administration declined to 17,592 
volumes a figure lower than that of Justin Winsor's day, and only 
slightly higher than that which prevailed during the doldrums of 
the eighties. It should be noted in passing that the portion allocated 
for the purchase of books from the total amount of City funds ap- 
propriated for the library had declined markedly from 1 5 per cent 
in 1931 to 8 per cent in 1951. Even when supplemented with the 
income of trust funds, the percentage available for the purchase of 
books slipped from 17 in 1931 to 9 in 1951. At the end of 1951 the 
book stock totalled 1,924,640 volumes, of which 1,291,934 were 
in the reference and research division at Copley Square, while 632,- 
706 volumes (mostly in the branches) were designed for home read- 
ing. As is suitable, the greater part of the city appropriation went 
to the purchase of books for the branches, while the income of the 
trust funds was used almost entirely for the development of the 


reference and research collections* The expenditures for books in 
1951 were divided thus : 

Home Reading Reference Total 

City Funds $188,960.79 $37,667.62 $226,628.41 

Trust Funds 870.49 37,879.45 38,749,94 

$189,831.28 $75,547.07 $265,378.35 

During the depression years much was accomplished in reform- 
ing and modernizing the library administration. The 1918 survey 
had sharply criticized the amount of administrative detail directly 
under the control of the Board of Trustees, and particularly the 
fact that "its individual members receive and act upon applications 
and complaints from members of the staff, independently of action 
thereon by the Librarian/' 'These things are done/' wrote Messrs. 
Anderson, Bostwick, and Brett, "so far as we know, in no other 
American library." There was indeed grave need for a change, as 
anyone who reads Josiah H. Benton's pamphlet The Working of the 
Boston Public Library, or chapter VII of Wadlin's history, will read- 
ily see. The following sample will suffice to show the bottleneck that 
existed through excessive centralization of administration: 

No supplies are purchased or repairs made without a vote of the 
Trustees. At each weekly meeting the Librarian submits a list of 
these which, upon examination and revision, is voted by the Trus- 
tees, and then transmitted to the Library Auditor as authority for 
the purchase and repairs. All orders for such supplies and repairs 
are in writing, signed by the Librarian, and numbered to corre- 
spond with the stub record, upon which is minuted the date of the 
list authorized by the Trustees upon which the item appears, and 
the number of the item on that list. Bills rendered are checked up 
from the stub record, and the receipt of the goods and the com- 
pletion of the repairs is certified by the head of the department to 
which the goods are delivered, or in which the work is done, or if 
the receipt is for supplies to be kept in stock their receipt is certi- 
fied by the custodian of the stock room. The bill then goes to the 
Library Auditor, who certifies it as correctly figured. It is then 
endorsed by the Librarian, presented to the Trustees, and its pay- 
ment voted by them. 

As similar procedures applied to all processes, including the pur- 
chase of books, one is left to wonder how the Trustees, solemnly de- 


liberating over every triviality, and the Librarian, meticulously put- 
ting numbers on stub records, ever had time to attend to the proper 
duties of their offices. Altogether the Boston Public Library suffered 
from a curious blending of personal autocracy and bureaucratic 
rectitude. In the high-handed years when Samuel A. B. Abbott was 
planning the Copley Square building to conform to his personal 
taste, the Trustees* records show numerous votes of such world- 
shaking importance as one of 15 November 1892 "that Sanitas be 
the form of water-closet bowl to be adopted for use in the new Pub- 
lic Library building/' The same spirit persisted long after Abbott's 
departure, for from 1908 until his death in 1917 Josiah H. Benton 
would hold court many times a week in the Trustees' Room, hearing 
petitions and giving arbitrary judgments on points of minor library 
detail, with a lordly disregard of any principles of orderly adminis- 
tration. When such an attitude at the top of an institution is 
screened by an elaborate system of vouchers, stubs, and rubber 
stamps, initiative and imagination inevitably suffer. H. M. Tomlin- 
son, vexed with the petty regulations governing travel in the modem 
world, summed the whole matter up recently in the single sentence: 
"Rubber stamps are for the rumps of sheep/' 

Moreover, during the course of World War I, there was an un- 
happy period when certain appointments were made to the Board 
of Trustees which were not of the type to be expected for an institu- 
tion such as the Boston Public Library. In consequence, a certain 
number of typical office-holders, lacking in professional qualifica- 
tions, found their way to employment by the library. Fortunately 
this situation was only temporary, for from 1919 onward the Mayors 
of Boston made a succession of very suitable appointments to the 
Board of Trustees, including such widely respected citizens as 
Louis E. Kirstein (Vice-president and general manager of William 
Filene's Sons Company), Frank W, Buxton (Editor of the Boston 
Herald^), Ellery Sedgwick (Editor of the Atlantic Monthly^), John L. 
Hall (a leading lawyer in Boston), William Cardinal O'Connell 
(Archbishop of Boston), Monsignor Robert H. Lord (formerly Pro- 
fessor of History at Harvard College and Vice-Rector of St. John's 
Ecclesiastical Seminary), Richard J. Gushing (Archbishop of Bos- 
ton), and others. As all of these Trustees were of a type that com- 


manded the respect of the community and of the members of the 
City Government, there was in consequence no attempt on the part 
of anyone in the Mayor's Office, in the City Council, or in other 
political areas to attempt to interfere politically in the administra- 
tion of the library. Perhaps the best tribute to the independence and 
standing of the Public Library, and the respect in which it has been 
held, is to be found in the tale of the two politicians who, during 
the depression, were discussing possible jobs for their constituents. 
One, having heard that the Public Library had a large WPA project, 
allowed that he was going there to force the appointment of an un- 
employed constituent. The other looked at him in horror and ex- 
claimed, "My God, man! Don't you know you can't do that? The 
Library is holy!" 

Fortunately the theory of "the indispensable man," nurtured dur- 
ing the long presidencies of Greenough, Abbott, and Benton, did 
not survive Benton 's death. In the past three decades, the presidency 
of the Library has usually been rotated, on the basis of terms of a 
single year, thus giving greater scope to the varied abilities of the 
competent citizens that have served the City as Trustees. While the 
yearly change of presidents afforded a prospect of refreshing stimula- 
tion to the Director (as the Librarian had been redesignated in 
1923), that devoted official still staggered under the weight of an 
inherited excess of detail. Although the operations of the branch 
libraries were highly centralized, with a Supervisor of Branches 
who alone reported straight to the Director, the central library was 
organized in exactly the opposite manner. There, some twenty en- 
tirely separate and unrelated department heads had no common 
superior short of the Director, who was thus unreasonably burdened 
with minor chores that might better have been dealt with lower on 
the ladder. Moreover, in the business operations of the institution 
there was room for improvement in method. With the greatly in- 
creased use of the library during the depression the need of more 
effective administration became apparent, particularly as appropria- 
tions were shrinking. Consequently in September 1932 seven 
months after Mr. Lord's arrival the Trustees adopted a revised 
plan of organization based upon the functional lines along which 
the major activities of the library fell, that is: 


1 . circulation of books (centered largely in tlie branch libraries) 

2. reference use of books (centered chiefly in the central library) 

3. business operations (the business management of the entire 
library system) 

The plan called for the creation of a Circulation Division, a Refer- 
ence Division, and a Division of Business Operations, each headed 
by an officer who would be responsible to the Director for the entire 
functioning of his division. Thus by logical decentralization, the Di- 
rector would become the general administrator of the entire library 
system, while the division heads the second ranking officers of the 
library would be the active executives for their respective divisions. 
In August 1933, when the three divisions were established, Mr. 
Lord wrote: 

The Boston Public Library is an unusual institution. It is not 
only a large active public library in the usual sense of the term; 
it is also a great scholarly reference and research library, possessing 
many of the marks of the university library. Both of these charac- 
teristics require recognition. 

The Circulation Division is therefore conceived as a unit com- 
bining all of those activities that belong to the public library as it 
has been developed generally throughout the United States. The 
American public library is essentially a popular institution. Dedi- 
cated to the spread of general reading among all classes and at all 
age levels, it has long attempted to provide books in as many 
copies as popular demand requires and to circulate them widely 
for use in the home as well as in the library. In the Boston Public 
Library system most activity of this sort takes place naturally in 
the branch libraries. In them there is centered, in large part, also 
the specialized work for children, the general work with the 
schools, and extension activities in general. The Circulation Divi- 
sion was therefore established to combine, coordinate, and develop 
the popular library activities of the Boston Public Library system. 

The Reference Division, on the other hand, is conceived as a 
unit made up primarily of the highly specialized subject and re- 
lated departments that are centered around the scholarly book col- 
lections of the main library, and which make it one of tie ranking 
scholarly and research libraries of the United States. As a division 
it is to be responsible for the maintenance, use, and development 
of these scholarly reference collections. 


Finally, to the Division of Business Operations is given the im- 
mediate responsibility for the business management of the library 
system as a whole. The intent has been thereby to afford relief, as 
far as possible, from non-bibliothecal activity for those individuals 
in the Circulation and the Reference Division who are engaged 
in duties that are primarily bibliothecal. 

The financial stringencies of the times prevented the immediate 
carrying out of the entire plan, but in 1934 the appointments of the 
division heads were made, Orlando C. Davis becoming Chief Li- 
brarian of the Circulation Division, Richard G. Hensley, Chief Li- 
brarian of the Reference Division, and James W. Kennedy Comp- 
troller, at the head of the Division of Business Operations. The title 
of Mr. Lord, the general administrator, was changed to Director, 
and Librarian. In the Reference Division recognition was given to 
the great rare book collections by the establishment of the post of 
Keeper of Rare Books, to which Dr. Zoltan Haraszti, the Editor 
of Publications, was appointed. 

The Boston Public Library is essentially two institutions in one, 
being both a popular public library in the usual sense and a major 
research institution. Each of these areas requires quite a difference 
of approach a fact recognized for the first time in the adminis- 
trative reorganization of the thirties. When fully developed, this 
change provided finally a fourfold division. In the General Adminis- 
trative Offices were grouped the Director and two assistants (one 
serving also as Chief Executive Officer and the other as Secretary of 
the Trustees); the Personnel, Information and Exhibits Offices; the 
Editor of Publications; and a section of Records, Files and Statis- 
tics. The Division of Home Reading and Community Services 
(originally and less mouth-fillingly called the Circulation Division), 
administered by a Chief Librarian, was managed by Chiefs of Book 
Selection and of Cataloging and Classification, a Supervisor, three 
Deputy Supervisors (in charge of work with adults, young adults 
and children respectively), a Chief of Open Shelf for Home Read- 
ing at the central library, thirty-three Branch Librarians, two Book- 
mobile Librarians, and three Readers' Advisors. In the Division of 
Reference and Research Services called in a more laconic and less 
precise world the Reference Division were grouped a similar gal- 


axy of Chief Librarian, Supervisors and Deputy Supervisors, plus 
thirteen Chiefs of Departments, Keepers of Rare Books and of 
Prints, and two Curators. An Assistant to the Director, in charge of 
Business Operations, whose hands were upheld by two Deputy As- 
sistants, became responsible for the Business Office, the Accounting, 
Book Purchasing, Book Preparation, Printing, and Binding De- 
partments, as well as the province of the Superintendent of Build- 
ings with his regiment of carpenters, painters, electricians, cleaners, 
watchmen, and the like. Dull as all this sounds on paper, it accom- 
plished the highly useful purpose of lowering from thirty to three 
the number of persons bothering the Director with minutiae of daily 
problems, thus giving him, for the first time, an opportunity to con- 
cern himself with the larger aspects of the library. Furthermore, by 
concentrating business operations in a single division, it allowed the 
persons engaged in purely library matters to put their full minds 
upon their proper business without irrelevant distractions, and pro- 
vided for desirable autonomy of the groups dealing with the dis- 
semination of popular reading on the one hand, and with the care 
of reference books on the other. 

As any plan of organization, however neat and logical it may 
appear on paper, stands or falls upon the character and the abilities 
of the people who carry it out, immediate attention was given to 
enlarging the opportunities for training the library staff. When pro- 
motion is based chiefly upon length of service, and advancement de- 
pends largely upon the next man above one being gathered to his 
eternal reward, initiative suffers, and an office-holding philosophy 
results. In many institutions, including the armed forces, down to 
relatively recent times one unfortunately reached, or did not reach, 
the head of one's profession chiefly because of the accident of 
longevity. The United States Navy in 1916 introduced the more rea- 
sonable system of promotion by selection on the basis of demon- 
strated abilities. Two decades later the Boston Public Library ap- 
plied similar principles to its own service. In 1933 Mr. Lord wrote, 
in reference to the administrative reorganization: 

The chief implication in the above plans is that extensive train- 
ing of personnel is necessary for full success in carrying out the 
proposed developments. An appreciably large number of individ- 


uals within the library staff must be constantly in training for 
higher responsibilities, and there must be an ample number of in- 
termediate positions in which they can gain experience and recog- 

With this in mind, the Library Training Class, established in 1927 
for a limited number of students, was in 1932, at the end of its fifth 
academic year, expanded to offer courses to all full-time members 
of the library staff. Although entirely voluntary, and carried on out- 
side library hours in the staff members' own free time, the response 
was gratifying, for during the first three years 405 different staff 
members enrolled. The courses were designed both to supplement 
formal library training obtained elsewhere and to provide a substi- 
tute for such opportunities in the case of those who had not previ- 
ously had them. 

The next step, taken on i January 1938, was to carry to full de- 
velopment previously incomplete arrangements (dating from the 
eighteen nineties) for the classification of personnel and for staff 
examinations. These were based, as the Director's report for 1937 
explained, on two fundamental assumptions. 

The first of these is that individuals are not naturally equal in 
their respective capacities and accomplishments, that some can and 
will progress faster and farther than others, that there must there- 
fore be provided a ladder with easily recognizable steps up which 
individuals may climb, thus achieving a classifying and grading 
of themselves largely through their own efforts. In other words, the 
belief is that in general the personal qualifications of an individ- 
ual are likely to afford a better basis for financial recognition than 
does the relative standing of a particular position in which the in- 
dividual happens to find himself and to which a particular rate of 
pay happens to be attached at the moment. 

The second fundamental assumption is that, beyond the pos- 
session of the common background which all librarians ought to 
have of the ordinary tools and technique of their work, they ought 
also to be possessed of specific excellence in some particular direc- 
tion or directions. The discovery of such competence or excellence 
in the members of the library staff is of the highest importance in 
the further development of a staff adequate to the needs and stand- 
ing of the Boston Public Library. 


Acting upon these assumptions, a framework of ten steps was es- 
tablishedfive in the Probationary Service and five in the Perma- 
nent Service, each with its appropriate examination which must be 
passed to qualify for promotion and increased pay. The qualifying 
examinations for the Probationary Assistant were designed to test 
his knowledge of General Book Selection, Cataloging and Classifica- 
tion, General Reference Work, and the work of the Boston Public 
Library system, both in the central library and in the branches. 
The passing of each examination carried with it a small raise in pay; 
the completion of all five made one eligible for appointment as an 
Assistant in the Permanent Service. The first of the promotional 
examinations in the Permanent Service, which was common to all 
departments, attempted to test the employee's knowledge of the na- 
ture of the public library as an institution. In the second and third 
examinations the subjects varied according to the nature of the em- 
ployee's duties. For members of branch library staffs they were set 
in the fields of the Social Sciences and History, and Literature; for 
workers in the central library the second examination would test 
an advanced knowledge of the French and German languages, and 
the third would deal with general knowledge of a subject field, such 
as Fine Arts, Music, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, His- 
tory, or of Literature. The fourth and fifth steps concerned a special 
field to be selected from within the subject chosen for the third, or 
with aspects of specialized library activity, such as Cataloging, 
Classification, Extension Work, Children's Work, or Library Ad- 
ministration. Increases in pay would automatically follow the com- 
pletion of the first three promotional examinations; in the fourth 
and fifth levels they would be awarded whenever, after one passed 
the examinations, there were appropriate vacancies to be filled. 

Exemption from examinations in technical library areas was 
provided for those trained in accredited library schools, and from 
examinations in subject areas for those who had shown equivalent 
competence at a recognized college or university. On the other hand, 
the examinations provided an accessible road to advancement for 
many able library employees whose formal education had stopped 
early, without the rigid insistence upon the letter of the academic 
law that clutters so many summer schools with unhappy school- 


teachers in quest of the degree that stands between them and a 
much needed raise in pay. Furthermore, the examination system 
impartially protects the library from the importunities common in 
any public institution of incompetents whose only recommenda- 
tion for employment is political in origin. In the average year some 
five hundred applicants take the entrance examinations, three hun- 
dred the qualifying examinations, and fifty the promotional. 

Salaries in the Boston Public Library had long been low in rela- 
tion both to library salaries paid elsewhere and to those paid in other 
parts of the City of Boston service for work of a more or less similar 
nature. In the spring of 1933 they had been further reduced in 
common with those of all city employees. In many instances high 
school graduates entered the library service at $11.00 or $12.00 a 
week. Particularly fortunate library school graduates might receive 
as much as $20.00, although they were more apt to start at $15.00, 
which was the normal beginning rate for college graduates. In 1 937, 
$20.00 per week was established as the normal entering wage for a 
Probationary Assistant (Grade C), with each of the qualifying ex- 
aminations adding one dollar weekly. In the Permanent Service 
(Grade B), the schedule adopted was as follows: 

Assistant, Beginning $25.00 

Assistant, ist Step 29.00 

Assistant, 2nd Step 33.00 

Assistant, 3rd Step 37-oo 

Second Assistant 44.00 

First Assistant 45.00 

In the Professional Library Service (Grade A), Chiefs of Depart- 
ments and Branch Librarians received from $2610 to $3130 annu- 
ally, while the salaries of other officers were to be fixed for each case 

From this beginning, such steady progress has been made for 
more than fifteen years that the Boston Public Library system sala- 
ries are now not only entirely adequate even for present-day costs 
of living, but are well above those generally paid in other libraries 
in the area, and comparable to those in the better paid public li- 
braries of the entire country. Today a college or library school gradu- 
ate generally begins, not at $15.00 per week, but at about $3,600 a 


year. Unclassified Assistants receive between $2410 and $3,160, 
while Assistants, Fifth Step, are paid from $4,510 to $4,760, with 
Chiefs, Deputy Supervisors, Supervisors, and Chief Librarians at 
proportionately appropriate rates up to $9,060. Thus the librarians, 
who were formerly the worst paid employees of the City of Boston, 
now receive salaries exceeded only by those of the school teachers. 
This is a change of which the City may well be proud. 

Thanks to the Personnel Office, which recruits, keeps records, 
conducts in-service-training, examination and counselling programs, 
and administers a staff library and hospital, and to the greatly im- 
proved physical facilities for the convenience of the staff rest 
rooms, lounges, toilets, locker rooms and lunch rooms the office- 
holding philosophy of early decades has gradually diminished. In 
1932, 24 per cent of the library staff were college graduates; 22 per 
cent had attended college without receiving degrees; 52 per cent had 
stopped at the end of high school, and 2 per cent had only attended 
grammar school. Twenty years later the percentages for the same 
categories were 46, 17, 37 and o. In 1932 only nine library school 
graduates (2 per cent) were employed in the Boston Public Library, 
as opposed to sixty-four (10 per cent) in 1952. This change in the 
character of the staff led to the formation in 1946 of the Boston 
Public Library Professional Staff Association, to which over 90 per 
cent of the eligible employees belong. In addition, the Trustees have 
established four annual scholarships for study at library schools, 
and give five annual grants toward the cost of attending annual meet- 
ings of the American Library Association. Thus a substantial be- 
ginning has been made in breaking down the ingrowing character 
of the Boston Public Library staff. 

In 1936 the Library received the first payments under the will 
of Josiah H. Benton. It will be recalled from Chapter X that that 
document contained a far from lucid provision requiring the pay- 
ment of income to the Rector of Trinity Church for "relieving the 
necessities of the poor" in any year when the City failed to appro- 
priate for the library "at least three per cent of the amount available 
for department expenses." Although the library Trustees felt that 
the provision was solely designed to guard against reduction in mu- 
nicipal appropriations for the library because of Benton's generosity, 


the will was sufficiently ambiguous to give lawyers a field day in the 
courts. It was not clear, for example, whether three per cent of ''de- 
partment expenses" was intended to include or exclude the very 
large expenditures for public schools. There was a difference of 
opinion as to whether Benton intended to benefit the poor of Boston, 
or simply seized upon the Rector of Trinity Church as a reliable 
recipient for funds in years when the City Council became stingy 
to the library. Litigation became prolonged, and the estate remained 
undistributed for many years until finally in January 1935 an agree- 
ment of compromise provided that sixty per cent of the income was 
to be paid to the library and forty per cent to the Rector of Trinity 
Church. The cash and securities constituting the bulk of the estate 
were received in 1936, and in 1938, after thorough auditing and 
accounting, the Benton Book Fund and the Benton Building Fund 
were set up. Had the residuary estate been divided in 1927, the date 
at which it became divisible under the terms of the will, each of 
these funds would have had a principal of $1,156,839.75. As the 
building fund was to accumulate until it reached the sum of $2,- 
000,000, the income received between 1927 and 1936 from that 
part of the estate was added to principal, so that the fund in 1938 
amounted to $1,644,118.57. The principal of the book fund, after 
the deduction of certain losses arising from revaluation of securities, 
stood at $1,136,480.25, while the accumulated income for 1927- 
1938, after deducting the forty per cent payable to Trinity Church, 
totalled $306,279.55. A substantial part of this back income was 
very shortly spent for books "desirable for scholarly research and 
use," thus giving the Library an opportunity to fill some of the gaps, 
notably in its rare book collection, that was particularly welcome 
after the lean years of depression, when any funds available had 
been urgently required to meet the needs of popular reading. Today 
the Benton Building Fund has already passed the two-million-doilar 
mark, while the Benton Book Fund remains one of the Library's 
chief resources for the purchase of scholarly material. 

In 1938 was received the Emily L. Ainsley Fund of $222,440, 
the income of which was to be used for the purchase of books. The 
generous gift was the second largest sum of money to come to the 
library up to that time. 


As it is both inevitable and appropriate that the municipal appro- 
priations should be spent only for the purchase and dissemination 
of books of wide popular interest and utility, it is fortunate that 
the Boston Public Library has on occasion aroused the imagination 
of private individuals who have, like Joshua Bates and Josiah H. 
Benton, made possible the development of great special collections. 
Although Thomas G. Appleton, one of the original Trustees, had 
given in 1869 some thousands of engravings collected by Cardinal 
Tosti, the library had, because of the extraordinarily rich resources 
of the neighboring Museum of Fine Arts, no valid reason for spread- 
ing book funds thinner by attempting to accumulate a print collec- 
tion of its own. The development of a print department came about 
entirely by unanticipated private generosity. Albert H. Wiggin, a 
New York banker, had, from the early years of the present century, 
been an avid collector of prints. Although he particularly concen- 
trated on the work of such British artists as Muirhead Bone, D. Y. 
Cameron, James McBey, Gerald Brockhurst, and Robert Austin, 
securing not only an Impression of every plate they produced but, 
in addition, complete runs of trial proofs and "states," Mr. Wiggin 
made great efforts to include similar representations of French and 
American artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and to 
carry his collecting back into earlier eras of print making. The ex- 
traordinary completeness of the work of many of the artists repre- 
sented made the Wiggin Collection particularly useful to students 
and scholars. While it would have been a valuable addition to the 
holdings of any of the American museums specializing in prints, 
Mr. Wiggin preferred rather to place it in an institution where it 
might stand by itself, bearing his name. Having approached the 
Boston Public Library through his friend John L. Hall a member 
of the board from 1931 to 1946 the Trustees in 1935 voted to 
express their interest in the possibility of accepting the Albert H. 
Wiggin Collection. Friendly relations with the library developed so 
happily that late in 1940 Mr. Wiggin determined to deposit the 
collection within his lifetime. On 14 June 1941 it was formally 
inaugurated in quarters renovated for the purpose on the third floor, 
between the Sargent Gallery and the Fine Arts Reading Room. Hav- 
ing made the deposit, Mr. Wiggin then not only began the gradual 


gift of portions of the collection completed in the course of five 
years but continued until his death in 1951 to make extensive 
purchases to supplement its already rich holdings. During this 
decade major collections of prints by Alphonse Legros, Augustus 
John, Frank W. Benson, George C. Wales, John Copley, Goya, 
Dauinier, Gavarni, and Frederick L. Griggs were added by Mr. 
Wiggin, while other donors generously followed his example. A 


collection of the work of the late Charles H. Woodbury was given 
in 1944 by Mrs. Charles Bruen Perkins and Mr. and Mrs. David O. 
Woodbury; Hiram C. Merrill started in 1945 the assembly of 
Thomas W. Nason's work; while in 1950 Edward C. Crossett gave 
some five hundred prints, states and drawings by Arthur W. 

The library was fortunate in being able to secure the services of 
Mr. Heintzelman as Keeper of Prints in 1941, for the usefulness of 
the Wiggin Collection has been greatly enhanced through placing 
it in the care of one of the most distinguished living artists in the 
field. Treated by ordinary library methods, Mr. Wiggin's gift would 
have become just another collection housed on the third floor; it 
required the presence of a skilled craftsman, fully versed in the 
technicalities of print-making, to interpret and derive full benefit 


from it. Through exhibitions shown in the library and lent to mu- 
seums and colleges not only in this country but also in France and 
Italy, through lectures, and through generous technical counsel to 
students and visitors, Mr. Heintzelman has broadened the Wiggin 
Collection from an addition to the library's scholarly holdings to be 
also a valuable element in its task of popular education. His useful 
activities in this direction are comparable to those of Dr. Haraszti, 
the Keeper of Rare Books and Editor of Publications, who has done 
much through exhibitions and in the monthly pages of More Books, 
and in the Boston Public Library Quarterly that replaced it in 1949, 
to give the casual reader an appreciation of the nature and signifi- 
cance of the rare books and manuscripts owned by the library. 


Towards the Second Century 

Cast your bread upon the waters : for thou shalt 
find it after many days. 


DURING HIS American lecture tour of 1883 Matthew Arnold 
was rarely aroused to unrestrained enthusiasm over New Eng- 
land habits. When courteously offered pie for breakfast in Andover, 
he maintained an air of superior critical detachment. Nevertheless he 
pronounced the Somerset Club, where he was lodged in Boston, as 
"first rate" and "capital," and was profoundly impressed by the 
democratic government of the Boston Public Library. An anony- 
mous member of the library staff, in an interview with a Herald re- 
porter concerning the cranks and eccentrics who frequented the 
institution reprinted in The Library Journal for June 1887 re- 
called the English critic's visit to the old building in Boylston Street. 

He came in here one day and saw a little barefooted newsboy sit- 
ting in one of the best chairs in the reading-room, enjoying himself 
apparently for dear life. The great essayist was completely as- 
tounded. "Do you let barefooted boys in this reading-room?" he 
asked. "You would never see such a sight as that in Europe. I do 
not believe there is a reading-room in all Europe in which that 
boy, dressed as he is, would enter." Then Mr. Arnold went over 
to the boy, engaged him in conversation, and found that he was 
reading the Life of Washington, and that he was a young gentle- 
man of decidedly anti-British tendencies, and, for his age, re- 
markably well informed. Mr. Arnold remained talking with the 
youngster for some time, and, as he came back to our desk, the 
great Englishman said: "I do not think I have been so impressed 
with anything else that I have seen since arriving in this country 
as I am now with meeting that barefooted boy in this reading- 
room. What a tribute to democratic institutions it is to say that, 


instead of sending that boy out to wander along in the streets, 
they permit him to come in here and excite his youthful imagina- 
tion by reading such a book as the Life of Washington! The read- 
ing of that one book may change the whole course of that boy's life, 
and may be the means of making him a useful, honorable, worthy 
citizen of this great country. It is, I tell you, a sight that impresses 
a European not accustomed to your democratic ways/' 

Although there is no clue to the identity of Matthew Arnold's bare- 
foot newsboy, one may well assume that in the end he acquired 
not only shoes but a substantial place in the community, if the 
career of another unorthodox young reader of the same period may 
be considered as an example of what determination combined with 
"book-learning" may produce. 

Of the second reader, whose name was John Deferrari, we know 
more, although none too much. The son of a Genoese fruit peddler, 
he was born during the Civil War in a North End tenement on 
Ferry Street. Leaving school at thirteen, he peddled fruit from a 
basket in State Street offices, where he saw, and resolved to emu- 
late, prosperous citizens earning so he was told five thousand 
dollars a year. This beatific vision spurred him to acquire first a 
pushcart, then a horse and wagon, then a fruit store in Dock Square. 
The next step was to move his business to Boylston Street next to 
the then building of the Public Library, where travellers by the 
Boston and Providence Railroad, whose terminus was then in Park 
Square, might be tempted to buy, both day and night, from the 
Quality Fruit Store. This new location enabled John Deferrari to 
visit the Public Library next door regularly and devour books on 
real estate, law, business, economics, and statistics. Having an al- 
chemist's yearning for gold, he studied with a passionate regard for 
detail any subject that might lead him to profitable investment. 
Gradually he converted the earnings of the Quality Fruit Store into 
stocks, bonds, and real estate. Having found the key to this new 
alchemy in the Public Library, John Deferrari left the fruit busi- 
ness at the age of 28, and devoted himself for the remainder of his 
life more than half a century to the accumulation and exchange 
of real estate and securities. Study and learning do not in themselves 
necessarily enlarge the human spirit. Lacking any human guidance, 


John Deferrari resolutely ignored the poetic heritage of his race, 
and by his studies became a modern counterpart of the classic type 
of medieval miser, like to those who, in the fourth circle of the 
Inferno, join with the prodigal in rolling great dead weights against 
each other through eternity, to a chorus of mutual reproaches in 
which 'Why chuck away?" alternates with "Why grab so tight?" 

Qui vidi gente piu che altrove troppa, 
e d'una parte e d'altra, con grandi urli, 
voltando pesi per forza di poppa; 

percotevansi incontro, e poscia pur li 
si rivolgea ciascun, voltando a retro, 
gridando: "Perche tieni?" e "Perche burli?" 

He was an astute buyer, with a mortal distrust of banks, lawyers, 
and doctors. He paid cash for securities over the counter; had no 
office more private than the waiting rooms of railway stations; kept 
his files in his coat pockets secured by safety pins, and sought no 
advice more personal than the books of the Boston Public Library 
and in later years those of the Kirstein Business Branch could 
give. Like one of Mr. Dooley's characters, he made money '"because 
he honestly loved it with an innocint affiction." His fortune in- 
creased, but his wants remained constant. He neither drank, 
smoked, nor swore, and rarely ate. Although he never married, he 
provided for his parents and sisters, and, as a single concession to 
sentiment, retained his father's double three story brick house in 
Wesley Place, off Hanover Street, as long as he lived, keeping his 
parents' tenement furnished and leaving the other five vacant. Liv- 
ing in Beacon Chambers on Myrtle Street under an assumed name, 
and having General Delivery as his only address, he would go to 
Wesley Place once a day and cook himself a meal. 

As John Deferrarf s holdings grew, he successfully weathered the 
increased responsibility of looking after them singlehanded even 
through the first two terms of the New Deal Wartime regulations 
were the final straw, and early in the forties he reluctantly shuffled 
into the National Shawmut Bank to seek advice. He fell in with an 
officer of the Trust Department who was sufficiently alert and tact- 
ful to allay temporarily his lifelong distrust of bankers. In conse- 
quence, Deferrari returned to the bank now and then. He needed 


help, for he was approaching eighty and realized that he must even- 
tually make a will and provide for the disposition of his lifelong 
accumulation of property. The result was a trust agreement estab- 
lishing the John Deferrari Foundation, with himself and the Na- 
tional Shawmut as trustees, under which a jury consisting of the 
Mayor of Boston, the Chief Justice of the Municipal Court and other 
functionaries would make grants to deserving young men. This 
rather inchoate benefaction did not satisfy the old man, who feared 
political implications and wished to make his arrangements more 

During the summer of 1946, Mr. Lord received a telephone call 
from the National Shawmut Bank, asking whether the Boston Pub- 
lic Library would be interested in a bequest under which income 
would become available after the capital had accumulated to two 
million dollars. The only stipulation would be that a room should 
bear the name of the then anonymous intending testator, and 
should contain a framed photograph of him. Mr. Lord made the li- 
brary's interest abundantly and immediately clear, but, as he 
realized that the Benton Building Fund was insufficient for an 
addition to the Copley Square library at post-war costs, suggested 
that, when the capital sum reached two million dollars, one million 
be taken from it for building purposes. He further proposed that an 
entire wing bear the donor's name, and that the framed photograph 
be improved to an oil portrait. 

For nine months nothing happened. Then in April 1947 the bank 
called again. Mr. Lord for the first time learned John Deferrari's 
name, A meeting was arranged to such purpose that on i July 1947 
a trust was established providing for the accumulation of the in- 
come of an initial gift of approximately one million dollars until 
the sum of two million was reached. At that point one million was 
to be paid to the Trustees of the Boston Public Library for the con- 
struction of a John Defarrari Wing to the Copley Square building, 
while the remaining million was to be allowed to double itself once 
again. When the sum of two million dollars has been reached for 
the second time, the income is to be paid quarterly to the Trustees 
for whatever use they may think appropriate. 

John Deferrari felt that the Boston Public Library had made his 


career possible. He hoped in an obscure way to make his fortune 
useful to young men, and he recognized the parallelism of his gift 
to that of Joshua Bates nine decades earlier. The suggestion of a 
public announcement of his gift filled him with alarm, but by 6 
September 1947 he had screwed his courage to the point of coming 
to the library and meeting both the Trustees and the press. Equipped 
with a new hat and a new suit, which was, however, disfigured by 
the customary safety-pins that guarded the integrity of his pocket- 
files, John Deferrari weathered his first press conference. He let it 
be known with modest pride that he "became a millionaire without 
benefit of a banker, a secretary, a bookkeeper, an automobile, or a 
telephone/' As his wealth had come from intelligent use of the 
library, he was glad to return it to the source. 

When Leopold Seyffert had completed painting John Defarrari's 
portrait, the subject came once more to the library for the unveil- 
ing. The ceremony was marred by the appearance of a process 
server who presented an attachment connected with a suit for dam- 
ages rising out of a fire in a Bowdoin Street lodging house owned by 
Deferrari. After this regrettable unpleasantness he rarely went out 
of doors until after dark, and drew in upon himself so completely 
that four days passed after his death in the spring of 1950 before his 
body was discovered and identified. 

One wishes that Matthew Arnold might have known the outcome 
of this curiously moral tale of virtue rewarded, for it would have 
startled him even more than the sight of the barefooted newsboy 
reading the Life of Washington. Certainly no library has ever been 
more richly or unexpectedly rewarded for doing its daily work 
simply and without affectation. Equally unanticipated was the be- 
quest by Mrs. H. Sylvia A. H. G. Wilks of one unit (1/140$! part) 
of the enormous estate that she had inherited from her New Bed- 
ford mother, Hetty Green. As with John Deferrari, the inspiration 
of this gift went back well into the nineteenth century, for it was 
designed to honor the memory of Mrs. Wilks's father's first cousin, 
Dr. Samuel A. Green, a Trustee of the Boston Public Library from 
1868 to 1878, and its Acting Librarian during the year following 
Justin Winsor's resignation in the summer of 1877. Mrs. Wilks's 
estate amounting to more than ninety million dollars, the library 


received in 1952, without restriction as to use, $605,000, the bulk 
of which was appropriated by the Trustees to carry on the moderni- 
zation of parts of the Copley Square building that had been under- 
taken in the mid forties. 

Past chapters have alluded to the architectural merit and practical 
inconvenience of the great central library. When it was designed, 
there was little useful precedent to rely on, for the public library 
movement was only in its fourth decade. Moreover, President Ab- 
bott's conviction of his own omniscience discouraged any serious 
attempt to profit by the experience of other institutions. Charles 
McKim had consequently all too completely attained the palace 
ideal, even to the point of providing back stairs areas that were as 
grubby and inconvenient as anything at Versailles. Rebuilding to 
improve matters of vulgar utility, which began as early as 1898, 
became a perennial necessity. The results, even with the 1917 addi- 
tion, actually amounted to lengthening a blanket by transferring a 
few inches from the head to the foot until 1942, when the comple- 
tion of the New England Deposit Library made possible the physical 
removal of more than 100,000 rarely consulted volumes from Copley 
Square. This cooperative venture, planned by Keyes DeWitt Met- 
calf , Director of the Harvard University Library, and sponsored by 
a number of the overcrowded institutions of greater Boston, put up 
an economical building near Soldiers Field in Brighton, where par- 
ticipating libraries could store their less-used books at moderate cost. 
Thanks to this new resource the Boston Public Library at last gained 
room to maneuver. 

For this particular game of chess, it proved singularly fortunate 
that each level of the Copley Square book stack was an independent 
structural unit with its own solid floor. In the 1898 rebuilding, 
when more working space was needed for the Delivery Room, the 
Librarian's Office had been moved into an area originally part of 
the book stack. This precedent suggested the possibility of rebuild- 
ing still other parts of the stack for administrative uses and internal 
work areas, but, even when space had been created by the transfer 
of books to the New England Deposit Library, the problem of using 
what was gained to the best advantage remained complex. Any 
changes made had to be logical not only in relation to the immediate 


use of the building, but also to an eventual enlargement, of unde- 
termined size and plan. In 1949 the Trustees bought the remainder 
of the Dartmouth-Boylston-Exeter-BIagden block, although with the 
provision that Boston University might occupy the buildings thus 
acquired until 1959. With space for future expansion thus assured, 
it remained to devise a plan that would respect the superb archi- 
tectural qualities of the public rooms of the old building, while con- 
verting the working areas into forms that would be useful both be- 
fore and after the construction of a new wing. 

The first step was to assemble in the remodelled book stack the 
various behind-the-scenes activities of the library, which had previ- 
ously been scattered throughout the building in any available empty 
corner. Working from plans prepared by the library's architectural 
advisors, Messrs. Ames, Child and Graves of Boston, the library's 
force of masons, carpenters, electricians, and painters was able to 
accomplish this conversion, bit by bit, out of funds from the normal 
annual operating budget of the library. 

The personnel administration was centralized on one floor, with 
attractive and convenient quarters for the Personnel Office, its In- 
Service Training Course class rooms, a Staff Library and Staff Hospi- 
tal, a Coffee Shop, as well as adequate rest, locker and toilet rooms 
for the male and female members of the library staff and the build- 
ing maintenance force. On another floor of the stack the Book Selec- 
tion, Cataloging and Classification Departments, for both the Home 
Reading Services and the Reference and Research Services, together 
with the Book Purchasing Department, the Book Preparation Depart- 
ment, and the central Book Stock for the Branch Libraries were 
brought together in well-planned offices. The administrative offices 
were concentrated at a point near the Blagden Street entrance, 
while in adjacent areas conveniently accessible from the public 
rooms at the front of the building similarly consolidated offices 
were provided for the Chief Librarians of the Division of Reference 
and Research Services and the Division of Home Reading and Com- 
munity Services and their assistants. The business offices were simi- 
larly centralized, with new quarters for the main Business Office 
and the Accounting Department in a converted stack area, while in 
the annex, where the Printing and the Binding Departments were 


already located, improved space was provided for shipping and re- 
ceiving, stock and supplies, as well as for the carpentry, electrical 
and paint shops. 

Although these changes, spread over a period of years, were visible 
only to those who penetrated behind the scenes, they not only im- 
proved the working efficiency of the staff but also cleared areas 
that then became available for public use. In an effort to break 
down the old Boylston Street dichotomy between the Lower and 
Bates Hall, McKim had placed all book services on the second floor 
of the Copley Square library. Thus, to consult the card catalogue 
or to request or return a book, one had to travel a considerable dis- 
tance through an impressive vestibule, climb the monumental stair- 
way with its Siena marble walls and Puvis de Chavannes paintings, 
and, on the second floor, walk approximately to the corner of Dart- 
mouth and Blagden Streets, either in the vaulted Bates Hall or in 
the imposing Delivery Room, where Abbey's Quest of the Holy 
Grail gleamed down above the oak panelling. It is to be assumed 
that this inconvenience was deliberately planned to expose the 
reader to the ennobling influence of the fine arts. This notion of 
culture by contagion still has its supporters, for the Harvard under- 
graduate bound for the main lecture room of the Fogg Art Museum 
(opened in 1927) must traverse a Renaissance courtyard and a 
great hall containing Romanesque sculpture before finding stairs 
that lead to his destination, while the budding engineer at M.I.T. 
using the Hayden Library (opened in 1950) cannot reach a spot 
where slide rules are permitted without following a circuitous course 
subject to the temptations of art exhibitions and recorded music. 
The theory is fine, but the practice leads chiefly to tired feet and 
loss of time. To the credit of McKim, it should be pointed out that 
the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library at Harvard College, 
opened two decades after the Boston Public Library, suffers from 
the same defects of plan without the agreeable decorative amenities, 
and with the addition of an extra monumental flight of steps leading 
from the Yard to the first floor. In the Sterling Memorial Library at 
Yale (1931) the card catalogue is at least on the ground floor near 
the door, although concealed by such a profusion of Gothic orna- 
ment that one instinctively fumbles for a holy water stoup on enter- 


ing, and has consciously to resist the temptation to genuflect at the 
Delivery Desk. 

The Cataloging, Classification, and Ordering Departments had 
occupied, from 1 895, the southeast corner of the ground floor of the 
Copley Square library. When they were transferred to new quarters 
in the remodelled stacks, space thus became available for the devel- 
opment of an expanded Open Shelf Department for Home Reading, 
in which books offer themselves readily to the casual browser. The 
result, opened in 1952, is a revelation to anyone whose impression 
of the Boston Public Library is colored by memories of illiterate 
derelicts reading their own newspapers or catching up on sleep. 
Here there is no normal library furniture, but rather self-service 
shelves, containing an appealing selection of clean and attractive 
books, with chairs in which one can sit (but not sleep) comfortably 
at convenient intervals. The absence of tables emphasizes the fact 
that the room is designed for the choice of home reading rather than 
the detailed study of law cases. Separate attractive browsing areas, 
each with its own reader's advisor, have been set aside for adults, 
young adults, and children. In these, as in the rooms below that 
have been rescued from basement storage, are phonograph turn- 
tables by which as many as eight individuals may listen at one time 
with earphones to recorded music. On the lower floor, in addition 
to a poetry corner, with a soundproof room where poetry recordings 
may be heard without earphones, is a smoking area. The whole 
Open Shelf Department for Home Reading has an informal and 
pleasantly relaxed atmosphere, happily free from institutionalism. 
By means of pavilions containing book shelves, its services have also 
been extended in summer months to the courtyard, which has thus 
become something more than the lost opportunity that it has been 
for nearly sixty years. To redeem this delightful court from its 
former character of a haven for loafers and a passageway to public 
toilets is a major accomplishment. 

Leading out of the basement section of the Open Shelf Depart- 
ment for Home Reading is an entirely new Audio-Visual Depart- 
ment, opened in January 1952. Here, with soundproof listening 
booths, one may select recordings for home use. Here also is an 
attractive little theater, for film showings and group presentation 


of recordings, as well as the library's film section. The creation of 
these agreeable quarters out of an unusually forbidding cellar, clut- 
tered with conduits, pipes, and ventilating ducts, is testimony to the 
resourcefulness and imagination of the library staff and their archi- 
tects. By the use of false ceiling equipped with fluorescent lights, 
one has no suggestion of being below ground in a converted base- 
ment. The effect of cheerful, well-lighted rooms is triumphantly 
and deceptively successful. 

The completion of the Open Shelf and Audio-Visual Depart- 
ments quarters, at a cost of approximately $150,000, derived from 
the library's annual operating budgets of three consecutive years, 
demonstrated what could be accomplished by judicious alterations 
within the fabric of the Copley Square library, without in any way 
doing violence to the architectural quality of the main public rooms. 
At the present time similar efforts in modernization are projected 
along the Boylston Street side of the building, and at the northwest 
corner of the courtyard. These changes, which are being undertaken 
with the Dr. Samuel A. Green Memorial Fund bequeathed by Mrs. 
Wilks, are designed to locate as many public areas as possible on the 
lower floors and to bring into being in nucleus form certain devel- 
opments that will subsequently be expanded in the proposed enlarge- 
ment of the building. At the back of the courtyard, a new Current 
Newspaper Room, Current Periodical Room, and a section for the 
bound files of both, are being located in the area formerly occupied 
by the old carpenter shop and the bound newspapers. Above the Cur- 
rent Periodical Room will be a Parent-Teachers Room for a new Edu- 
cation Department, above which will be located a Religion-Philoso- 
phy-Psychology Department, in space previously given to the Statisti- 
cal Department. The present Patent Room, at the northwest corner of 
the courtyard, will be provided with a mezzanine floor for the ac- 
commodation of the Patent Collection, while its main floor will be 
rebuilt for the use of the Science and Technology Department, now 
incongruously housed with the Fine Arts on the third floor. The 
ground floor rooms at the northeast corner of the building, now oc- 
cupied by the Newspaper and Periodical Rooms, will shortly house 
a Social Sciences Department (including a new Sports and Travel 
Section) and a Government Documents Department (achieved by 


breaking up the holdings of the old Statistical Department). Ad- 
jacent space will be devoted to the new Maps Department. 

The Main Entrance Hall has acquired, without major detriment 
to its monumental appearance, Book Charging Desks and a central 
Book Return Desk, which obviate the long climb to the Abbey Room. 
Thus in the near future the Public Card Catalogue will be moved 
from the southern end of Bates Hall into the Abbey Room. The 
Bates Hall reading room will, as at present, house the History De- 
partment in the northern end and the General Reference Collection 
in its central portion. The southern end will be given over to a 
Literature and Languages Department. The Music Department will 
shortly move down to the second floor to the rooms formerly occu- 
pied by the old Children's Room and the Teachers Department, 
thus clearing additional space on the third floor for the expansion of 
the Rare Book Department. The removal of Science and Technology 
to new quarters will permit the Fine Arts Department to dig itself 
out from the present crowded confusion of the west gallery on the 
third floor. This game of musical chairs will require time for its com- 
pletion, but the striking success achieved with the Open Shelf De- 
partment gives one a foretaste of what may be expected as the mod- 
ernization continues. 

Time has its curious revenges. For many decades, librarians de- 
voted to the card catalogue smiled patronizingly as the British Mu- 
seum continued to revise and publish its catalogue in book form. 
Today one goes with respect not only to the British Museum cata- 
logue but to the bound volumes in which Library of Congress cards 
are now conveniently available in book form. Within the year the 
Lamont Library of Harvard College has issued its catalogue in book 
form. In 1882 the seemingly cantankerous William H. Whitmore 
saw no reason why the Boston Public Library could not economically 
accommodate itself in the English-High and Latin School buildings 
by housing its books in the numerous school rooms where, as in the 
Athenaeum, they could be seen and used, rather than segregating 
them in a stack. The present plan toward subdividing the resources 
of the Division of Reference and Research Services into specialized 
departments, where the reader may consult books upon particular 
subjects with the aid of assistants familiar with the material, must, 
if these matters are of interest on the other side of the Styx, cause 


Whitmore's shade to smile. In still another direction library tech- 
nique has come full circle. 

Since the acquisition of the land behind the library in 1949, the 
form of building to be placed upon it has exercised many minds. 
It must, by general agreement, respect McKim's fagade. If it should 
fail to do so, it will not be for want of trying. Mr. Lord, for all the 
trouble he has had trying to make his institution work smoothly 
inside its walls, describes the central library unequivocally as "one 
of the chief architectural ornaments of the nation, 53 and as "the 
most beautiful public library building in the world/' The future 
extension must also be sufficiently functional and flexible to accom- 
modate the library for many decades to come. For the observance of 
the centennial anniversary preliminary studies were made in which 
Alfred Morton Githens, as consulting architect, endeavored to 
translate into tentative plans the future needs of the library as now 
foreseen by the trustees and staff. These are to be widely circulated 
so that useful criticism and discussion may be brought to bear with 
ample time for consideration. The Boston Public Library has twice 
in its history moved into fine new buildings that did not work; it 
does not propose to do so a third time. 

Simultaneously with the planning of the new Open Shelf Depart- 
ment for Home Reading in Copley Square, equally experimental 
steps were being taken with the evolution of a new form of branch 
library. These were long overdue, for at least half of the thirty-odd 
branch libraries needed new buildings. The West Roxbury Branch 
of 1922 represented almost the only respectable activity in that di- 
rection since 1900 until the spurt of municipal conscience that led 
to the completion in 1930-1932 of new branches at Mattapan, 
Parker Hill, Connolly (Boylston), Faneuil, and Jeffries Point to 
replace totally inadequate existing quarters. The depression, how- 
ever, prevented any further improvement for another two decades. 
In the eighty-five years since the East Boston Branch the first in 
any American city was opened in 1871, it has been found more 
than once that requirements for library service alter radically with 
changes of population in given neighborhoods. In its current mod- 
ernization plans, therefore, the Boston Public Library has experi- 
mented with the construction of simple, functional branch libraries, 
free from architectural pretension or elaborate decoration, that 


might, under changed circumstances, prove adaptable to other use i 
not needed for their original purpose. The branches at Adams Street, 
Dorchester (intended to replace the Neponset Branch Library) and 
at Egleston Square (an entirely new branch library area) completed 
in 1951 and 1953, are one-story buildings primarily of cinder block 
and glass, designed solely to make books available in the region under 
attractive conditions at minimum cost. In these latest experiments 
in branch library architecture, everything has been placed on one 
floor level Such a plan not only reduces construction costs by elimi- 
nating the need for digging a cellar, but simplifies the problem of 
staff coverage. While designed for library use, such buildings are 
planned so that they could easily be converted to commercial pur- 
poses, if, through changes in the character of neighborhoods, they 
were no longer needed as branch libraries. The earlier ornamental 
type of branch library building lacked flexibility in its plan and 
could hardly have been adapted to any other use. The current type, 
having few permanent partitions and being planned so as to permit 
change of use of areas, simply by the moving of bookcases or similar 
dividing elements, achieves extreme flexibility. If one of these 
buildings were to be given up by the library, it could easily be con- 
verted into three or four stores by the installation of interior parti- 
tions and the cutting of additional doors through the facade. 

From the point of view of attracting readers, a greater use of 
color and improved lighting make the recent branch library build- 
ings considerably gayer than their predecessors, while the possi- 
bility of smoking attracts many readers. It is intended that the 
branch library buildings of today should serve as congenial com- 
munity centers. To this end, space is provided for activities which 
can be library-centered, through library programs making use of 
recordings and films, which go considerably beyond the earlier con- 
cept of the branch library simply as a point for the lending of books. 
While this function retains its old importance, much has been 
added in the way of programs designed to stimulate the borrowing 
of books. Lectures, recitals of music, readers' advisory services, story- 
telling for children, book discussion groups for adults, and an in- 
creased quantity of audio-visual equipment, are all employed to 
lure readers to books. The Friends of the East Boston Branch Li- 



brary, formed in 1948 following the seventy-fifth anniversary of 
the branch's establishment, has proved to be a genuine community 
development that has become a source of continued gifts of equip- 
ment such as a motion-picture projector and screen, radio, phono- 
graph, and tape-recorderto the library. The Friends of the Phil- 

y^tr, '/ r^vVs/r*- .*'^5.." M '. v -u* 


lips Brooks Branch Library, established a year later on the example 
of East Boston, not only benefitted the library by gifts but has de- 
veloped into a community organization for the entire Readville 
area. Similar organizations were formed immediately after the open- 
ing of the Adams Street and Eggleston Square Branch Libraries, and 
plans have been set under way for the development of such groups 
around other branch libraries. In addition to these efforts to attract 
general readers, the branch libraries have given increasing attention 
to the needs of special groups, developing closer relations with labor 
unions, public and parochial schools, and hospitals. 

Even greater flexibility in circulation is attained by the use of two 
Bookmobiles which are on the go five days a week, taking books to 
areas not readily served by one of the thirty-two immobile branches. 
The first of these has been in operation since February 1950; the 
second since February 1952. 

A new South Boston Branch, to replace the existing South Boston 


and City Point Branch Libraries, is scheduled for completion in 
1956. It is to be hoped that the City Planning Board's recommenda- 
tion that all branches in rented premises, and those inadequately 
accommodated in municipal buildings, be systematically re-estab- 
lished in new buildings at the rate of one each year, may be followed. 
Such improvements in surroundings, and in the variety and at- 
tractiveness of the books offered, are bound to have an effect upon 
the future of the Library. The circulation figures of 1929 to 1938 
quoted in Chapter XI showed a fantastic rise during the depths of 
the depression, and a consistent decline as employment gradually 
increased. From 4,354,044 volumes in 1938, circulation continued 
to drop through the war years to a 1945 low point of 2,661,741. 
While military service and increased employment unquestionably 
took away an appreciable number of library users, the book stock 
was becoming disreputable and uninviting at the very moment when 
paper-covered books and weekly periodicals were offering vastly 
increased cheap reading matter at newsstands and drugstores. Li- 
brary books were wearing out and not being replaced just as long- 
playing phonograph records and the omnipresent television were 
increasing the competition with reading previously offered by Holly- 
wood and the radio. It therefore became doubly necessary to provide 
fresh books and present them in convenient and pleasant surround- 
ings. The results of the new Open Shelf Department for Home 
Reading in Copley Square, which includes films and recordings, 
and the effects of the new branches and of the Bookmobiles, are 
readily apparent in the post-war circulation figures : 













During its first year of operation, the new Open Shelf Department 
distributed a number of books half as large again as had been previ- 
ously lent from Copley Square for home reading. Similarly, the new 
Adams Street Branch, with agreeable surroundings and fresh books, 
moved to the head of all the branch libraries in its first year's circu- 


lation, while the first Bookmobile surpassed even the largest circu- 
lation in any of the branch libraries. 

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the steady rise in circu- 
lation since the war is directly attributable to the presence o fresh 
books in attractive surroundings. The obvious corollary is that still 
more books would lead to further use. 

In appraising the usefulness of the Boston Public Library, how- 
ever, one must not rely alone upon figures of gross circulation, for 
this would leave out of reckoning the extensive activities of the in- 
stitution as a scholarly and reference library. Through the gifts of 
its founders and the energetic collecting of Jewett, Winsor and 
Chamberlain, the Boston Public Library had acquired in its early 
decades a collection of scholarly books far richer than is to be found 
in most public libraries. Constant purchasing within the limits of 
private endowment funds greatly augmented when the income of 
J. H. Benton's bequest at last became available and the receipt 
of such important special collections as the Brown music library 
and Albert H. Wiggins's prints, have so consistently maintained this 
interest that the Boston Public Library is (in company with the far 
larger New York Public Library) one of the only two public libraries 
in the United States admitted to membership in the Association of 
Research Libraries. At the end of the year 1951, with 1,924,640 
volumes owned by the Boston Public Library, approximately one 
third (632,706) were in the Division of Home Reading and Com- 
munity Services, while two thirds (1,291,934) were in the Division 
of Reference and Research Services. 

Thus the library has an entire phase of its activity clearly rec- 
ognized in its present administrative organization that is in no 
sense measured by statistics of circulation. One might note, for ex- 
ample, that the library staff has contributed to Jacob Blanck's Bibli- 
ography of American Literature, to the second edition of Lyle HL 
Wright's American Fiction, 17741850: a bibliography, and that it 
regularly checks descriptions of its materials for such bibliographers 
as W. W. Greg, Clifford K. Shipton, and R. W. G. Vail. The State 
Records Microfilm Project, carried on under the direction of the 
Library of Congress, in its early stages set up a microfilm camera in 
the Boston Public Library to reproduce printed and manuscript 


material relating to the Massachusetts Bay colony and province, 
while the Library's excellent set of the British House of Commons 
Sessional Papers was utilized in a microprint reproduction of that 
series a few years ago. Within recent months, the library has made 
available for first American performance manuscript copies of the 
chamber music of the eighteenth century Dublin composer, Philip 
Cogan; has supplied material to an old friend of Sibelius in Finland 
for a book on the influence of Sibelius in America, and sent photo- 
stats by air mail to Greece to aid in a production of Mozart's Ido~ 
meneo in the Athens Festival. Such biographers and historical nov- 
elists as Louise Hall Tharp, Janet Whitney, Catherine Drinker 
Bowen, Esther Forbes and Kenneth Roberts have drawn upon the 
manuscript collections of the Boston Public Library in the prepara- 
tion of their books. Dr. Zoltan Haraszti, the Keeper of Rare Books 
and Editor of Publications, very largely based his John Adams and 
the Prophets of Progress upon the personal annotations in Presi- 
dent Adams's books, which have been deposited in the Boston Public 
Library for sixty years, while the twenty-nine volumes of More 
Books and the seven volumes of its successor, the Boston Public Li- 
brary Quarterly contain countless articles deriving from the li- 
brary's holdings. Mr, Arthur W. Heintzelman, the Keeper of Prints 
and a distinguished etcher in his own right, organized in 1952 ex- 
change exhibitions of contemporary prints between France and the 
United States, which are still travelling in the two countries. Mr. 
Heintzelman has also supervised a similar exchange exhibition be- 
tween Italy and the United States at the request of the Calcografia 
Nazionale in Rome. 

While such activities are taken for granted in research libraries, 
they do not as a rule occur in the majority of public libraries, and 
so merit mention in passing. On less scholarly and more practical 
(or curious) levels, the Boston Public Library constantly copes with 
requests for information on subjects as varied as zoning regulations, 
beavers' teeth, a delicacy that I have never encountered called 
"Boston Cream Pie," hook-up diagrams for converting an electric 
meter from 2-phase to 3-phase, the properties of bronze and brass 
alloys, the Ethiopian national anthem, and the operation of the 
Taft-Hartley law. All of this indicates that there is some possible 


use within the Copley Square building even for the most unlikely- 
looking volume in the million and a quarter books that do not help 
to increase the figures of circulation for home reading. 

When one recalls George Ticknor's hopes for the Boston Public 
Library it is heartening to reflect that, at the beginning of its second 
century, its major concern is still with bringing the people of Boston 
to books and, on occasion, even bringing the books to them. The 
centenary observances that began in the autumn of 1953 rightly 
emphasized the highly varied aspects of the popular mission of 
the library, and forcibly brought home to many Bostonians the 
hitherto unrealized fact that the noble granite building in Copley 
Square is not the Boston Public Library that it is, rather, the heart 
and nerve center of a great system that extends to all corners of the 
city and that has, for a century, lived up to Ticknor's hope for "an 
apparatus that shall carry the taste for reading as deep as possible 
into society." 


For events of the nineteen forties and fifties, I have had to depend 
upon information furnished by officers of the Boston Public Li- 
brary, due to the discontinuance of the older form of narrative re- 
ports and the substitution of a purely statistical annual pamphlet. 
The recent rebuilding of parts of the central library is described 
and illustrated in "Boston Modernizes Plans for Enlargement" by 
Milton E. Lord in the Library Journal, LXXVII (15 December 
1953). Mr. Githens's preliminary studies for the enlargement of the 
building are reproduced in a fund-raising pamphlet entitled Build- 
ing A Great Future upon A Glorious Past issued by the Centennial 
Commission of the Boston Public Library in 1953. David McCord's 
Reflections on the Centennial Anniversary of the Boston Public 
Library, published by the Centennial Commission in the same year, 
is a delightful little book, full of information and free from the pom- 
pous solemnity that afflicts many commemorative publications of 

I owe my knowledge of the Matthew Arnold anecdote to a refer- 
ence in Mr. Collier's thesis, cited in my Preface. 


THE hundred years covered in this history have seen momentous 
changes in the availability and distribution of books in the United 
States. At the beginning of the period, C. C. Jewett in his 1851 
report found 694 libraries accessible to the public on some basis 
although supported by private funds with an aggregate of 2,201,- 
632 volumes. Of this number only five reached a total of fifty 
thousand volumes each. Public Library Statistics, 1950, issued as 
Bulletin 1953, No. 9 of the U.S. Department of Health, Education 
and Welfare, Office of Education, reported a total of 7,477 public 
library systems receiving 87.4% of their income from local public 
funds a century later. The 6,028 of these that returned the De- 
partment's statistical report owned a total of 142,931,000 volumes. 
These astronomical figures, it should be remembered, concern only 
public library systems in the modern sense, and exclude university 
libraries and those of numerous private and public institutions. 

Of the five libraries reported by Jewett a century ago as possessing 
fifty thousand or more volumes, two the Boston Athenaeum and 
the Philadelphia Library Company have grown only at a com- 
fortable rate. The other three have become veritable giants. Harvard, 
with 84,000 volumes in 1851, reported 5,703,000 in 1953, stand- 
ing second to the Library of Congress, whose 50,000 volumes of 
1851 had multiplied to 9,847,000. Yale's 50,481 volumes had in 
the same period become 4,216,000. 

In 1868 Justin Winsor found ten libraries in the United States 
containing upwards of 50,000 volumes, with the Boston Public Li- 
brary (which was less than fifteen years old) in second place. In 
1953, of 71 libraries participating in the Farmington Plan, be- 
longing to the Association of Research Libraries, or to institutions 
belonging to the Association of American Universities (as listed in 
K. D. Metcalf's Report on the Harvard University Library: A Study 


of Present and Prospective Problems} , plus five large public li- 
braries (listed in Circular 393, revised June 1954 issue, of the 
Office of Education), no less than nineteen contained upwards of 
1,500,000 volumes. In this list the Boston Public Library stands 

1 Library of Congress 9,847,000 

2 Harvard University 5,703,000 

3 New York Public Library 5,511,000 

4 Yale University 4,216,000 

5 Cleveland Public Library 2,730,000 

6 University of Illinois 2,656,000 

7 Chicago Public Library 2,241,000 

8 Los Angeles Public Library 2,036,000 

9 Columbia University 2,026,000 

10 Boston Public Library 1,961,000 

1 1 University of Chicago 1,884,000 

12 University of California, Berkeley 1,878,000 

1 3 Brooklyn Public Library 1,803,000 

1 4 University of Minnesota 1,689,000 

1 5 Cincinnati Public Library 1,682,000 

1 6 Philadelphia Public Library 1,651,000 

17 Cornell University 1,613,000 

1 8 Detroit Public Library 1,573,000 

1 9 University of Michigan 1,551,000 

Growth at such a pace, however inevitable, has not proved an un- 
mixed blessing. Today those who are charged with the administra- 
tion of great research libraries throughout the country are less apt 
to express pleasure in the richness and extent of their holdings than 
concern over means by which they are to be maintained. As boots 
are added to libraries, problems increase by geometrical rather than 
arithmetical progression. On this point K. D. Metcalf has observed 
in his recent Report on the Harvard University Library: 

The most basic of all library problems is that library collections 
grow, which necessitates additional space and funds. It should be 
noted that the growth is different from the growth in most other 
parts of the University. The University admits students who in 
due course are replaced by others. The Library takes in books, but 
does not discard them. A new book does not replace an old book, 
and a basic factor in the growth of the Library is that it adds to its 


collections and does not subtract. An older book in a research in- 
stitution may be used infrequently, but experience indicates that 
it rarely becomes a dead book. 

The dual nature of the Boston Public Library causes it to share in 
this inexorable problem of all research libraries, for while the third 
of its book stock that is devoted to popular circulation may and 
indeed should be subject to constant replacement and improve- 
ment without appreciable increase in size, the two-thirds devoted to 
reference and research must inevitably grow if it is to remain useful. 
By contrast with the university libraries which can, to some extent, 
predict the needs of the faculty and students that are its primary 
users, a public library has to try to foresee the wants of a body of 
readers in constant fluctuation who happen, at any period, whether 
permanently or temporarily, to require its services. 

Boston of 1850 was a city of 136,881 inhabitants. In 1950 the 
number had increased to 801,444 within the city limits, which, 
with the 1,757,137 residents of eighty-two suburban cities and 
towns that naturally gravitate into Boston, makes a population of 
over two and a half million in Metropolitan Boston. Moreover, Bos- 
ton University, Boston College, Simmons College, the Massachu- 
setts Institute of Technology, the New England Conservatory of 
Music, and innumerable other colleges and schools all founded 
within the past century bring to Boston an immense temporary 
student population that inevitably and properly finds its way to the 
Boston Public Library, to supplement the resources of the libraries of 
those institutions. In addition to this constantly changing body 
of students living temporarily within the city, approximately 40% 
of the use of the Division of Reference and Research Services in the 
Boston Public Library is by Massachusetts citizens who are not resi- 
dent in Boston. Furthermore, the Boston Public Library conducts 
an extensive inter-library loan program for the other libraries of the 
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, employing the full time of two 
individual workers solely for this purpose. Nevertheless, the City of 
Boston alone bears the cost. 

At the beginning of its second century the Boston Public Library 
faces among its problems the need of strengthening community in- 
terest and of developing increased financial support. The Friends 


of the Library groups already established in certain branches indi- 
cate the usefulness of such organizations in the maintenance of com- 
munity interest and in the support of individual Branch Libraries. 
It is hoped that similar groups may develop in support of the special 
subject departments of the Central Library, so that gifts from pri- 
vate sources may supplement the present endowment funds and the 
appropriations already made by the City of Boston. As much of the 
non-Boston use of the Central Library comes from the Greater 
Boston Metropolitan Area, it is apparent that nearby cities and towns 
may save money on their library collections because many important 
reference books are obtainable at the Boston Public Library. The 
financial implications of this should be explored to determine 
whether mutual help among the metropolitan libraries might be 
developed through contractual relationships in meeting certain 
costs. Similarly, a program of state aid for Massachusetts libraries 
needs exploration, for the present limited program of the Common- 
wealth for public libraries is designed to help small rural libraries 
only. Cities and towns receive no financial help whatever from the 
program, but have to depend entirely upon their own fiscal re- 
sources, which consist chiefly of the already over-burdened real 
estate tax. If imaginative answers are found to the problems of com- 
munity interest and broader financial support, the further problems 
of improvement of the physical plant, the maintenance of the book 
collections, and new developments in the use of the Boston Public 
Library will be well on the road to solution. 

In its approaches to the problems of the future, the Boston Public 
Library has the advantage of long-experienced guidance and of a 
continued tradition of generous and willing support by the City of 
Boston. The senior Trustee, Frank W. Buxton, has served continu- 
ously since 1928. The present Director, Milton E. Lord, having 
come to the Library in 1932, has guided its affairs longer than any 
of his predecessors. Like two others of them Winsor and Belden 
he has had the highest honor in his profession the presidency of 
the American Library Association. 

It is a good augury for the second century of the Library that its 
relations with the City Government have never been happier than 
at the present time. While it has been necessary to note in some 


detail the political interference that led to Justin Winsor's resigna- 
tion in 1877, an d $i e strains and stresses during the construction 
of the Copley Square building, it is pleasant to be able to observe in 
conclusion the happiness of association that has existed between the 
Trustees and the Director of the Library on the one side and the 
Mayor and City Council on the other during the past thirty years. 
The interest of the current Mayor of Boston, the Honorable John B. 
Hynes, has been particularly notable. Mayor Hynes, a long-time 
career official of the City, has had a deep respect and sympathy for 
the Public Library, dating from his boyhood acquaintance with it. 
He has supported the Library in every way in most understanding 
fashion, and has been the prime mover in making funds available 
for the construction of the new branch libraries at Adams Street, 
Egleston Square, and South Boston. 




From 1852 to 1858 the chief officer of the Library lore the title of Libra- 
rian; from 1858 to 1877 Superintendent; from 1877 to 1923 Librarian; 
from 1923 to 1934 Director; since 1934 Director, and Librarian. 

Edward Capen, 1852-74 
Charles Coffin Jewett, 1858-68 
Justin Winsor, 1868-77 
Samuel Abbott Green, 1877-78 
Mellen Chamberlain, 187890 
Theodore Frelinghuysen Dwight, 

Herbert Putnam, 189 59 9 
James Lyman Whitney, 1899- 


Horace Greeley Wadlin, 190317 
Charles Francis Dorr Belden, 

Milton Edward Lord, 1932 


Edward Everett, 1852-64 
George Ticknor, 1865 
William Whitwell Greenough, 


Henry Williamson Haynes, 1888 
Samuel Appleton Browne Abbott, 

Frederick Octavius Prince, 1895 

Lincoln Solomon, 1899-1907 

James De Normandie, 1908 
Josiah Henry Benton, 190817 
William Francis Kenney, 1917- 


Alexander Mann, 1920-23 
Arthur Theodore Connolly, 1923- 


Louis Edward Kirstein, 192425 
Michael Joseph Murray, 192526 
Guy Wilbur Currier, 1926-27 
Arthur Theodore Connolly, 1927- 


Louis Edward Kirstein, 192829 
Gordon Abbott, 192930 
Frank W. Buxton, 193031 
Louis Edward Kirstein, 193132 

Ellery Sedgwick, 1932-33 
John Loomer Hall, 1933-34 
William Cardinal O'Connell, 

Frank W. Buxton, 193 53 6 
Louis Edward Kirstein, 193637 
Ellery Sedgwick, 1937-38 
John Loomer Hall, 1938-39 
Robert Howard Lord, 193940 
Frank W. Buxton, 194041 
Louis Edward Kirstein, 194142 
Ellery Sedgwick, 1942-43 
John Loomer Hall, 1943-44 
Robert Howard Lord, 194445 
Frank W. Buxton, 1945-46 
Abraham Edward Pinanski, 

Francis Boyle Masterson, 1947 

4 8 

Robert Howard Lord, 1948-49 
Frank W. Buxton, 1949-50 

Frank Joseph Donahue, 195051 
Lee Max Friedman, 195153 

Patrick Francis McDonald, 1953- 


Richard James Gushing, 1955 




Gordon Abbott, 1 926-3 1 
Samuel Appleton Browne Abbott, 


Thomas Gold Appleton, 1852-56 
Josiah Henry Benton, 189417 
John Prescott BIgelow, 1852-68 
Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, 1865- 

6 7 

Henry Pickering Bowditch, 1 894- 


Thomas Francis Boyle, 1902-12 
Jarvis Dwight Braman, 186972 
John Andrew Brett, 1912-16 
Frank W. Buxton, 1928- 
SamuelCarr, 1895-96, 1908-22 
George Bigelow Chase, 1876-85 
James Freeman Clarke, 1879-88 
Daniel Henry Coaldey, 1917-19 
Arthur Theodore Connolly, 1916- 


Guy Wilbur Currier, 1922-30 
Daniel Sargent Curtis, 1873-75 
Richard James Gushing, 1952- 
James De Normandie, 1895-1908 
Frank Joseph Donahue, 1948 
Thomas Dwight, 1899-1908 
Clifton Howard Dwinnell, 1927- 


Edward Everett, 1852-64 
Lee Max Friedman, 1 949 
Richard Frothingham, 1875-79 
William Alexander Gaston, 1923- 


Samuel Abbott Green, 1868-78 
William Whitwell Greenough, 

John Loomer Hall ? 1931-46 

Henry Williamson Haynes, 1880- 

George Stillman Hillard, 1872- 

75; 1876-77 
Francis William Kenney, 1908- 


Louis Edward Kirstein, 1919-42 
Weston Lewis, 1868-79 
Solomon Lincoln, 1897-1907 
Robert Howard Lord, 1936-52 
Patrick Francis McDonald, 1951- 
Alexander Mann, 1908-23 
Francis Boyle Masterson, 1946- 


Ellis Wesley Morton, 1870-73 

Michael Joseph Murray, 1921-26 
William Cardinal O'Connell, 


Phineas Pierce, 1888-94 
Abraham Edward Pinanski, 

Frederick Octavius Prince, 1888- 


George Putnam, 1868-77 
William Reuben Richards, 1889- 


Ellery Sedgwick, 1930-48 
Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff, 

Benjamin Franklin Thomas, 


George Ticknor, 1852-66 
Francis Amasa Walker, 1896 
Edwin Percy Whipple, 1868-70 
William Henry Whitmore, 1885- 

Justin Winsor, 1867-68 


Abbey, Edwin A., mural paintings by, 
148, 156, 158, 167-168, 176, 192, 
193, 247 

Abbott, Gordon, Trustee, President, 
263, 264 

Abbott, Samuel Appleton Browne, Trus- 
tee, President, 140, 263, 264; ap- 
pointed Trustee, 118; elected Presi- 
dent, 127, 146; assumes duties o 
Librarian, 127128, 185; engages 
McKim, Mead and White, 141; in 
role of patron of the arts, 148:8:; 
contracts with artists for decorative 
sculpture and painting, 158; his 
autocratic habits, 227, 228, 245; his 
unseemly interchange with W. F. 
Poole, 151-152; requests Adams Li- 
brary, 169; his essential role in the 
building of the Copley Square li- 
brary, 161162; resigns in disgust, 
1 68; his later life, 169 

Abuses of library by readers, 66-67, 
153-154, i?o, 217-218 

Acrostic on fagade of Copley Square li- 
brary, 156157 

Adams, Charles Francis, on commit- 
tee to consider Vattemare's plan, 
7, 9; engages Vattemare as ventrilo- 
quist, 7 

Adams, Charles Francis (II), 169 

Adams, Henry, 129 

Adams, John, 169-170 

Adams, William T. (Oliver Optic), de- 
livers address, 88 

Adams Library, 169170 

Adams Street Branch Library, 252, 
253, 262 

Administrative reorganization of 1932, 

Agassiz, Louis, 910 

Ainsley, Emily L., Fund, 236 

Allen, James B., of City Council, ap- 
pointed to first Board of Trustees, 

American Academy of Arts and Sci- 
ences, 9, 1 6, 40, 72 

American Antiquarian Society, 9, 77 

American Baptist Missionary Society, 
gives books, 16 

American Library Association, elects 
Justin Winsor President, 101; elects 
C.F.D. Belden President, 220; elects 
Milton E. Lord President, 261; 
meets in Boston in 1890, 151 

American Library Journal, editorial on 
Justin Winsor, 108109 

Ames, Child and Graves, architects, 

Anderson, Edwin H., surveys library in 
1918, 205208, 221 

Andrews, William T., appointed by 
Boston Athenaeum to consider merg- 
er with Boston Public Library, 8 

Annual examination of books, 44, 69, 


Antin, Mary, quoted, 192194 
Appleton, Samuel, gift from, 37 
Appleton, Thomas Gold, Trustee, 27, 

45, 93> 237, 264 
Apthrop, William F., surveys musical 

department, 123 
Arnold, Matthew, 240241, 244 
Artz, Victorine Thomas, gift from, 172 
Association of Research Libraries, 255, 


Astor Library, 15-16, 77 
Audio-Visual Department, 248249 
Austin, Edward, gift from, 45 

Bacchante, by Frederic Macmonnies, 

causes ludicrous controversy, 176 

182; drawing of, 178 
Baker Library, Harvard Business 

School, 213-214 
Barlow, Samuel L. M., books bought at 

sale of Ms library, 123 
Barton, Mrs. Thomas P., 92 
Barton Library, 92-93, 121, 161, 218 



Bates, Joshua, 57, 103, 237, 244; his 
early life, 36; reads first report of 
Trustees and offers to provide books 
for Boston Public Library, 3436, 
63; his offer accepted, 36; sugges- 
tions for library building, 3738; 
offers further gifts, 47-48; Ticknor 
visits him in England, 50; gift of 
books in 1859, 62; his death, 66; 
Upper Hall renamed Bates Hall, 66; 
his views on users of library, 35-36, 

Bates Hall, 66; drawing of, in Boylston 
Street, 60; description of, 79-80; 
drawing of, in Copley Square, 144; 
references to, 175-176, 193, 217- 

Beecher, Rev. Henry Ward, supports 
Sunday opening of public libraries, 

9 8 

Belden, Charles Francis Dorr, Librar- 
ian, Director, 263; appointed, 203; 
his administration, 204220; elected 
President of American Library As- 
sociation, 220; his death, 220, 221 

Benton, Josiah Henry, Trustee, Presi- 
dent, 263, 264; appointed Trustee, 
1 66; elected President, 189; his col- 
lection of Book of Common Prayer, 
190, 204; his autocratic and single- 
handed administration, 190, 227, 
228; Ms attempt to explain library 
operations in simple terms, 190191, 
195, 226; his death, 204; his will 
and bequests, 204205, 235236, 


Benton Book Fund, 236, 255 
Benton Building Fund, 236, 243 
Bibliotheque Ste.-Genevieve, Paris, 

Bigelow, John Prescott, Trustee, Mayor 

of Boston, 1923, 25, 27, 104, 

Billings, Robert Charles, bequest from, 


Bindery, 68, 79, 98-99 
Binding Department, 188, 201, 231 
Blagden, Rev. George Washington, on 

committee to consider Vattemare's 

plan, 7 
Boisterous law students in Bates Hall, 

Bolton, Charles Knowles, 165, 184 

Bolton, H. Carrington, quoted, 175- 

Bookmobiles, 253; drawing of, 262 

Boston Art Commission, role in Bac- 
chante controversy, 177-180, 184 

Boston Athenaeum, iv, 26, 35, 72, 76, 
77, 94, 141, 258; Ticknor's plan of 
1826 to merge other libraries with, 
23; considers unfavorably Vatte- 
mare's plan, 8; unsuccessful efforts 
of Boston Public Library to absorb, 
14-15, 38-40; Winsor makes record 
of newspaper files of, 97, 170 

Boston Marine Society, unable to sup- 
port Vattemare's plan, 9 

Boston Medical Library, 214 

Boston Public Library Quarterly, 239 

Boston Society of Natural History, ex- 
presses qualified approval of Vatte- 
mare's plan, 89 

Bostwick, Arthur E., surveys library in 
1918, 205208, 221 

Bourne, Frank A., architect, vi 

Bowditch, Henry Ingersoll, Trustee, 
59, 93, 264 

Bowditch, Henry Pickering, Trustee, 
166, 179 

Bowditch, J. Ingersoll, gifts from, 41, 


Bowditch, Nathaniel, library of, given 
to Boston Public Library, 59-61 

Bowditch, Nathaniel Ingersoll, ap- 
pointed by Boston Athenaeum to con- 
sider merger with Boston Public 
Library, 8; gives services as convey- 
ancer, 4 1 ; one of the donors of Bow- 
ditch Library, 59 

Bowditch, William L, one of the do- 
nors of Bowditch Library. 59 

Bowditch Library, 59-61, 63, 74, 218 

Boyle, Thomas Francis, Trustee, 264 

Boylston Branch Library, 213, 251 

Boylston Street library, 45-47, 55-74; 
dedication of, 5556; unsatisfactory 
character of, 68, 79-81, 90-91, 
126, 131, 134; sold and demolished, 
185-186; drawing of facade, 46; 
drawing of Upper Hall, 60 

Bradlee, N. J., architect of Roxbury 
Branch Library, 86 

Brady, Rev. James B., denounces Bac- 
chante, i 80 i8r 

Braman, Jarvis Dwight, Trustee, 264 



Branch libraries, 71, 8490, 112, 

124-125, 173-174, 194-199, 211- 

215, 251-254 

Brett, John Andrew, Trustee, 264 
Brett, William H., surveys library in 

1918, 205-208, 221 
Brewer, Gardner, gives Greuze portrait 

of Benjamin FranMin, 93 
Brighton Branch Library, 87, 174 
Brighton Library Association, 87 
Brighton Social Library, 87 
Brooks, Arthur A., Assistant Keeper o 

Lower Hall, 114 

Brooks, Edward, gives Duplessis por- 
trait of Benjamin FranMin, 61, 93 
Brown, Allen A., gift from, of music 

and musical literature, 170, 171 


Brown, James, gift from, 37 
Brown music library, 170, 171-172, 


Bulletin, 97, 124, 174, 186, 219-220 
Burnham, Charles, Chairman of Joint 

Library Committee, 106 
Business branch library, 213-215 
Buxton, Frank W., Trustee, President, 

227, 261, 263, 264 

Cabot, Edward C., 141 

Capen, Edward, Librarian, 26, 54, 59, 
76, 95, 115, 263 

Carey, Arthur Astor, gives mural dec- 
oration, 158 

Carr, Samuel, Trustee, 169, 264 

Catalogue Department, 96, 97 

Catalogues of books, 44, 50-51, 57 
58, 65, 83-84, 96, 97 

Censorship, 122 

Chamberlain, Mellen, Librarian, 263; 
appointed, 114; his administration, 
114127, 151; had no part in plan- 
ning Copley Square library, 151, 
182; resignation, 127; Ms collection 
of manuscripts, 169, 170; his praise 
of Justin Winsor, 76 

Channing, Dr. Walter, on committee 
to consider Vattemare's plan, 7 

Chapman, Jonathan, Mayor of Boston, 
presides over meeting instigated by 
Vattemare, 6 

Charlestown Branch Library, 87, 174, 
I95> 212 

Chase, George Bigelow, Trustee, 118 

Children's Fund bequeathed by J. H. 
Benton, 205 

Children's Room, 164, 182 

Circulation Division, 229 

Circulation of books, 71-74, 89, 124, 
222-225, 254-255 

City Point Reading Room, 197, 254 

Clark, John T., Alderman, 107 

Clarke, Rev. James Freeman, Trustee, 
118, 141, 146, 264 

Clarke, Professor T. M., on proposed 
Copley Square library, 139 

Clough, George A., City Architect, 

Coakley, Daniel Henry, Trustee, 264 

Codman, Henry Sargent, books on land- 
scape architecture in memory of, 172 

Codman, Mr. and Mrs. James M., gift 
from, 172 

Codman, Philip, books on landscape 
architecture in memory of, 172 

Codman Square Reading Room, 195 

Cogswell, Joseph Green, 15 

Collier, Francis Gilman, thesis on pub- 
lic library movement, vii, 257 

Connolly, Arthur Theodore, Trustee, 
President, 263, 264 

Connolly Branch Library, 213, 252 

Copley, John Singleton, gift of painting 
by, 6 1 

Copley Square library, 132163, 164 
169, 182183, 200 201, 205, 215 
219, 245-251; Mary Antin's ac- 
count of, 192194 

Courtyard of Copley Square library, 
143, 183, 193, 217; drawing of, 194 

Cowtan, Robert, 103 

Cox, Kenyon, suggests library device, 

Cram, Ralph Adams, architect, 139, 

Cram and Ferguson, architects of Par- 
ker Hill Branch Library, 213 

Curley, James Michael, Mayor of Bos- 
ton, 200, 212213 

Currier, Guy Wilbur, Trustee, Presi- 
dent, 263, 264 

Curtis, Daniel Sargent, Trustee, 264 

Gushing, Archbishop Richard J., Trus- 
tee, President, 227, 263, 264 

Davis, Orlando C., appointed Chief Li- 
brarian of Circulation Division, 230 



Deferrari, John, gift from, 241-244 

Delivery stations, 88 

DeNormandie, Rev. James, Trustee, 
President, 166, 179, 184, 189, 263, 

Department of Documents and Statis- 
tics, 175, 213 

Department of Manuscripts, 186 

Division of Business Operations, 229 
230, 246 

Division of Home Reading and Com- 
munity Services, 230, 246 

Division of Reference and Research 
Services, 230-231, 246, 249-251, 
255-257, 260 

Donahue, Frank Joseph, Trustee, Presi- 
dent, 263, 264 

Donald, Rev. E. Winchester, surrepti- 
tiously views statue of Bacchante, 
180, 184 

Dorchester Branch Library, 88, 174 

Dorchester Lower Mills Delivery Sta- 
tion, 88 

Drake, Nathan, contracts for masonry 
of Boylston Street library, 47 

Duplessis, Joseph Silfrede, portrait of 
Benjamin Franklin by, 61 

Dwight, Theodore Frelinghuysen, Li- 
brarian, 129130, 263 

Dwight, Thomas, Trustee, 264 

Dwinnell, Clifton Howard, Trustee, 

East Boston Branch Library, 85, 174, 
197, 212, 251, 252-253 

Editor of Library Publications, 174, 

Egleston Square Branch Library, 252, 
253, 262 

Eliot, Charles W., 106-108, 181 

Eliot, Samuel Atkins, gift from, 19 

Elliott, John, mural painting by, 158 

ElHs, Charles M., supports Sunday 
opening of library, 98 

Emerson, George B., gives qualified ap- 
proval of Vattemare's plan on behalf 
of Boston Society of Natural History, 

English-High and Latin School, 135 
136, 163, 250 

Erving, Edward S., of City Council, ap- 
pointed to first Board of Trustees, 27 

Evening opening, 98, 166 

Everett, Edward, Trustee, President, 
263, 264; his remarkable career, 19 
20; offers his collection of public 
documents to City, 19, 2022; fruit- 
ful association with George Ticknor 
in planning Boston Public Library, 
20, 25, 26, 27, 33, 35-36, 42, 103; 
his theory of public library as com- 
pletion of system of public education, 
2223, 69; letters to and from Tick- 
nor, 2325; appointed to first Board 
of Trustees, 26; designated President, 
26; suggests Ticknor go to Europe, 
49; Commissioner for building Boyls- 
ton Street library, 5 1 ; makes speech 
at dedication, 56; his death, 66 

Examinations for promotion, 174, 232 


Examining Committee (1854), 43; 
(1861), 64; (1862), 65-66; 
(1865), 93-94; (1867), 67-74; 
(1870), 79; (1876), 91-92; 
(1877), 105; (1878), 120; 
(1882), 122; (1893), 123-124; 
(1894), 162; (1895), 173; (1909- 
10), 195-196; (1910-11), 196- 
197; (1911-12), 197; (1921-22), 
212, 215-216; (1924-25), 217; 

(1929), 212 

Faneuil Branch Library, 213, 251 
Federal Document Information Service, 


Fellowes Athenaeum, 8687, 174 
Fellowes, Caleb, 85-86 
Fiction, reading of, 73-74, 82-84, 

120, i2i 122, 189 
Fine Cancellation Week in 1932, 

Fitzgerald, John F., Mayor of Boston, 

Fleischner, Otto, Assistant Librarian, 

174, 186 

Ford, William E., Janitor, 96, 119 
Ford, Worthington C., Chief of Depart- 
ment of Documents and Statistics, 

175, 186, 213 

Foreign-born readers, 188-189, 192- 
194, 196-198, 212 

Fowler, M. Field, protests against Sun- 
day opening of library, 98 

Franklin, Benjamin, portraits of, by 
Duplessis, 61; by Greuze, 93 



French, Daniel Chester, sculptures by, 
158, 178 

Friedman, Lee Max, Trustee, President, 
263, 264 

Friends of library groups, 252253, 

Frothingham, Richard, Trustee, 264 

Furness, H. H. ? gives opinion o li- 
brary's Shakespeare collection, 122- 

Galatea collection, 172 

Gannett, Rev. Ezra S., on committee to 
consider Vattemare's plan, 7 

Gardner, Mrs. John L., 168 

Gaston, William Alexander, Trustee, 

Githens, Alfred Morton, consulting 
architect for addition to Copley 
Square library, 251 

Grant, Robert, a foe of Bacchante, 181, 

Gray, Louis F., Clerk of Corporation, 

Green, Samuel A., Acting Librarian, 
112, 244, 249, 263 

Greenough, William Whitwell, Trus- 
tee, President, 128, 129, 141, 228, 
263, 264; elected President, 66; 
makes addresses, 85, 87, 88; per- 
sonally selects books for purchase, 
118119; in effect the manager of 
the library, 120; signs report on new 
building, 135; signs contract with 
McKim, Mead and White, 141; re- 
signs presidency, 127; resigns as 
Trustee, 146; his dim view of li- 
brarians, 151; writes Annals, vii; 
quoted, 15, 34~35 ? 101 

Greuze, Jean Baptiste, portrait of Ben- 
jamin Franklin by, 93 

Hall, John Loomer, Trustee, President, 
227, 237, 263, 264 

Haraszti, Zoltan, Editor of Library Pub- 
lications, 1 8, 219, 239, 256; ap- 
pointed Keeper of Rare Books, 230 

Harvard University Library, 2, 72, 77, 
199, 213-214, 247, 258 

Haynes, Henry Williamson, Trustee, 
President, 118, 127, 133, 141, 146, 
166, 263, 264 

Heintzelman, Arthur W., Keeper of 
Prints, 238, 256 

Hensley, Richard G., appointed Chief 
Librarian of Reference Division, 230 

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 62, 
123, 172 

Hillard, George Stilhnan, Trustee, u, 
18, 264 

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, writes poem 
for laying of cornerstone of Copley 
Square library, 131, 147-148 

Holton, James, bequeathed funds for li- 
brary in Brighton, 87 

Holton Public Library, Brighton, 87 

Hubbard, Rev. James M., 96, 112, 116, 


Hyde Park Public Library, 197 

Hynes, John B., Mayor of Boston, 225, 

Indicator, 67 

Inspector of Branches, 173 

Inspector of Circulation, 125 

Inter-library loans, 175, 260 

Jamaica Plain Branch Library, 112, 

Jeffries Point Branch Library, 213, 251 

Jewett, Charles Coffin, Superintendent, 
263; his survey of American librar- 
ies, i2, 57, 258; comes to Boston 
to cope with Joshua Bates's gifts, 
4851; appointed Superintendent, 
54, 104; his administration, 5574; 
his death, 75; letter from George 
Ticknor, 119; quoted, 26 

Jillson, William Everett, General As- 
sistant, 75-76, 95 

Joint Special Committee on the Public 
Library, 1112 

Joint Standing Committee on the Public 
Library, 25 

Kennedy, James W., appointed Comp- 
troller, 230 

Kenney, William Francis, Trustee, 
President, 263, 264 

Kilham, Hopkins and Greeley, archi- 
tects of Faneuil Branch Library, 213 

Kirby, Charles Kirk, architect of Boyls- 
ton Street library, 47 

Kirstein, Edward, gift in memory of, 



Kirstein, Louis Edward, Trustee, Presi- 
dent, 263, 264 

Kirstein Memorial Library, 214; draw- 
ing of interior, 215 

Labrouste, Henri, 143 

Landscape architecture, Codman collec- 
tion on, 172 

Lawrence, Abbott, bequest from, 65 

Lawrence, James, of City Council, ap- 
pointed to first Board of Trustees, 27 

Lecture Hall, 182 

Lee, Francis W., placed in charge of 
Printing Department, 174 

Lewis, Weston, Trustee, 96, 264 

Library Company of Philadelphia, 2, 
77, 298 

Library of Congress, 2, 49, 77, 258 

Library Training Class, 232 

Light reading, pompous strictures upon, 
51, 64, 88 

Lincoln, Solomon, Trustee, President, 
185, 190, 263, 264 

Longfellow collection, 172 

Lord, Milton Edward, Director, and 
Librarian, 263; appointed, 221; his 
administration, 221-239, 243-257, 
258262; quoted on need for more 
books, 224225; negotiations with 
John Deferrari, 243244; elected 
President of American Library As- 
sociation, 261 

Lord, Monsignor Robert H., Trustee, 
President, 227, 263, 264 

Lowell Institute, 9 

Lower Hall in Boylston Street library, 
57-59, 70, 8o-8r, 102, 153-154 

Lower Mills Reading Room, 1 74 

McCarthy, Dennis, night watchman, 
the first employee to be pensioned, 

McCord, David, quoted, 162 

McDonald, Patrick Francis, Trustee, 
President, 263, 264 

McKim, Charles Follen, architect of 
Copley Square library, 140146, 
148150, 158159, 161, 164, 192, 
215, 251; his offer of Macmonnies' 
Bacchante, 176177; the resulting 
commotion, 177-182; offer with- 
drawn, 182 

McKim, Julia Amory Appleton, 141, 

McKim, Mead and White, architects of 
Copley Square library, 140-146, 
157, 167 

McMahan, Rev, J. B., gift from, 19 

Macmonnies, Frederic, statue of Sir 
Harry Vane by, 158; Bacchante by, 
causes ludicrous controversy, 176 

Maginnis and Walsh, architects of 
Boylston (Connolly) Branch Li- 
brary, 213 

Mann, Rev. Alexander, Trustee, Presi- 
dent, 263, 264 

Mason Street Library, 34, 37, 41, 
43-54> 575 drawing of facade of, 

Massachusetts Acts: authorization to 
establish a public library (1848), 
13; act to incorporate Trustees of 
Boston Public Library (1878), no 
in; grant of land in Copley Square 
(1880), 133134; authorization to 
take additional land (1882), 133; 
amending act of incorporation of 
Trustees (1887), 139; authorization 
to issue bonds for new library build- 
ing (1889), 149-150, 154; au- 
thorizing a further issue of bonds 
(1891), 151; authorizing alterations 
in Copley Square library (1892), 

Massachusetts Historical Society, 9, 16, 
40, 97, 112, 114 

Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 
gives books, 1 7 

Masterson, Francis Boyle, Trustee, 
President, 263, 264 

Mattapan Branch Library, 213, 251 

Mattapan Library Association, 85 

Mattapan Reading Room, 174 

Matthews, Nathan, Mayor of Boston, 

Mead, William Rutherford, 140 

Mechanic Apprentices Library Associa- 
tion, enthusiastically endorses Vatte- 
mare's plan, 9 

Mercantile Library Association, Boston, 
enthusiastically supports Vattemare's 
plan, 5-7, 9; gives its books for 
South End Branch, 112; slides to an 
inglorious end, 124125 



Mercantile Library of San Francisco, 

4, 170 

Metcalf, Keyes DeWitt, 245, 258, 259 
Millmore, Martin, sculptor of bust of 

George Ticknor, 93 
Moliere, W. H. Prescotfs projected life 

of, 93 

Monthly Bulletin of Recent Books, 219 
Mora, Domingo, carves medallions on 
facade of Copley Square library, 156 
More Books, 219, 239 
Morton, Ellis Wesley, Trustee, 264 
Mt. Bowdoin Reading Room, 174 
Mural paintings in Copley Square li- 
brary described, 167168 
Murray, Michael Joseph, Trustee, Presi- 
dent, 263, 264 
Music library, 123, 171172 

National Shawmut Bank, 242243 
Neponset Branch Library, 252 
New England Deposit library, 245 
Newspaper commotions, 1 521 54, 

156-157, 159-160, 179 
Newspaper files, 97, 161, 166, 170 

171, 182 

Nightingale, James, gift from, 41 
North Bennet Street Reading Room, 


North Brighton Reading Room, 174 
North End Branch Library, 125, 174, 


North Gallery, 219 

North Street Reading Room, 196-197 
Norton, Charles Eliot, a foe of Bac- 
chante, 178, 1 80, 181 

O'Brien, Hugh, as Alderman ignorantly 
and maladroitly causes Justin Win- 
sor's resignation, 106109; likened 
to railroad rioters, 108109; repre- 
sents City on Board of Trustees, 1 18; 
as Mayor of Boston, 138; lays cor- 
nerstone of Copley Square Hbrary, 


O'ConneU, William Cardinal, Trustee, 
President, 227, 263, 264 

Odiorne, George, Alderman, Commis- 
sioner for building Boylston Street 
library, 45 

Open Shelf Department for Home Read- 
ing, 248-249, 254-255 

Open Shelf Room, 215 

Optic, Oliver, 88 

Ordering and Receiving Department 
established, 96 

Palmer, Albert, Mayor of Boston, 137- 

Paris, City of, gifts of books, 9, n, 16- 

17, 19 

Parker, H. T., quoted, 176-177 
Parker, Rev. Theodore, 61-62, 123 
Parker Hill Branch Library, 213, 251 
Parker Library, 61-62, 68, 123 
Patent collection, 61, 63, 91, 164, 182, 

Pensions and retirement systems, 201, 


Perkins, Frederic B., Office Secretary, 
96, 97; expresses vigorous views on 
inadequacy of administration, 116, 

Perry, Bliss, quoted, 152 

Perry, Lyman, Alderman, appointed to 

first Board of Trustees, 27 
Perry, Thomas Sergeant, evaluates 

French literary holdings, 123 
Personal classification, 232235 
Phillips, Jonathan, gifts from, 41, 65 
Pierce, Henry L., Mayor of Boston, 109; 

gift from, 104 

Pierce, Phineas, Trustee, 146, 264 
PinansM, Abraham Edward, Trustee, 

President, 263, 264 
Political chicanery, 104109, 201 

202, 227 
Poole, William Frederick, 26, 42, 76, 


Pratt, Bela L., sculptures by, 192 
Pratt, Charles E., of City Council, ap- 
pointed to Board of Trustees, 1 1 8 
Prescott, William H., Moliere collection 

assembled by, given by George Tiek- 

nor, 93 

Presidency of Trustees, 66, 228 
Prince, Frederick Octavius, Trustee, 

President, Mayor of Boston, 104, 

116, 132, 146, 169, 178, 185 
Prince, Rev. Thomas, 66 
Prince Library, 66, 96, 218 
Printing Department, 174, 188, 201, 


Prints, collections of, 93, 237-239 
Promotion by examination, 174, 202, 




Putnam, George, Trustee, 264 

Putnam, Herbert, Librarian, 213, 263; 
appointed, 130, 165; his administra- 
tion, 164-184; quoted on need for 
endowment, 187; comment on Ms 
skill, 175; appointed Librarian of 
Congress, 183-184, 185 

Putnam and Cox, architects of Matta- 
pan Branch Library, 213 

Puvis de Chavannes, mural paintings 
by, 148, 158, 159, 176, 247 

Puzzle and contest fiends, 218 

Quincy, Josiah, Mayor of Boston, 14, 
1 8; defeats plan for merging Boston 
Athenaeum and Boston Public Li- 
brary, 40 

Quincy, Josiah, Jr., Mayor of Boston, 
19, 40, 104; on committee to con- 
sider Vattemare's plan, 7, 10; makes 
first concrete proposal for a public 
library, 11-13, *7J Treasurer of 
Boston Athenasum, 14 

Quincy, Josiah P., writes in praise of 
Vattemare, 10 

Readers, occupations of, analyzed by 

Justin Winsor, 8182 
Reading, character of, 7274, 120 
Reed, Sampson, Alderman, appointed 

to first Board of Trustees, 27; drew 

up rules and regulations, 43 
Reference Division, 229 
Rice, Alexander EL, Mayor of Boston, 

Richards, William Reuben, Trustee, 

149, 166, 264 
Richardson, H. H., architect, 139, 140, 

Robinson, Edward, raises money for 

mural paintings by John Singer Sar- 
gent, 1 68 
Robinson, Richard, Alderman, ignorant- 

ly helps to cause Justin Winsor's 

resignation, 107, 109 
Rotch, Arthur, testifies regarding design 

of Copley Square library, 140 
Roxbury Branch Library, 8587, 174 
Ruzicka, Rudolph, designer of this 

book, drawings by, ii-iii, 37, 46, 60, 

126, 144, 156, 178, 194, 215, 238, 


Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, sculptures by, 
148, 158, 159-160, 178, 192 

Saint-Gaudens, Louis, sculptures by, 
148-149, 156, 159 

Salaries, 96, io4E, 191, 209-210, 


Sargent, John Singer, mural paintings 
by, 148, 156, 158, 161, 167-168, 
176, 192 

Savage, Philip Henry, Librarian's sec- 
retary, death of, 186 

Seal over main entrance of Copley 
Square building, 159160 

Seaver, Benjamin, Mayor of Boston, re- 
quests appointment of Librarian and 
Trustees, 25-26; appointed to first 
Board of Trustees, 27; receives letter 
from Joshua Bates, 3436 

Sedgwick, Ellery, Trustee, President, 
227, 263, 264 

Seyffert, Leopold, portrait of John De- 
ferrari by, 244 

Shelf Department established, 95 

Shepard, Mrs. Sally Inman Kast, gift 
from, 45 

Shurtleff, Nathaniel Bradstreet, Trus- 
tee, Mayor of Boston, 104, 264; ap- 
pointed to first Board of Trustees, 
27; drew up rules and regulations, 
43; Commissioner for building Boyls- 
ton Street library, 45, 47; originates 
system for shelving books, 67 

Sibley, John Langdon, 106 

Simmons College, 207, 209 

Small, Herbert, 148, 163 

Smith, Jerome V. C., Mayor of Boston, 
receives letter from Joshua Bates, 47 

Smith, Joseph Lindon, mural paintings 
by, 158 

Society for Medical Improvement, un- 
able to support Vattemare's plan, 9 

Somerset Street site proposed and re- 
jected, 38-40 

South Boston Branch Library, 85, 174, 
212, 253-254, 262 

South End Branch Library, 112, 124- 
125, 174, 195, 212 

Special Libraries Department, 164, 
166, 174, 186, 218-219 

Stevens, Henry, 3; expresses unfavor- 
able opinion of Vattemare, 10 

Story, William Wetmore, sculpture by, 
given, 6 1 



Sullivan, Thomas Russell, friend of 
Bacchante, 184; quoted on contro- 
versy, 167-168, 179, 1 80, 181 

Sumner, William H., 85 

Sumner Library Association, 85 

Sunday opening, 98, 166 

Superintendent, office of, 52-54, 70, 

Supervisor of Branches, 173, 228 

Survey of library in 1918, 205208, 


Swift, Lindsay, Editor of Library Pub- 
lications, 170, 174, 1 8 6, 219 

Thayer, Oscar O., architect of West 
Roxbury Branch Library, 212 

Thomas, Benjamin Franklin, Trustee, 

Thompson, Francis, Alderman, 107 

Ticknor, George, Trustee, President, 
1 8, 263, 264; his early plan for 
merging other libraries with Boston 
Athenagum, 2-3; regarded Vatte- 
mare as a charlatan, 10; fruitful as- 
sociation with Edward Everett in 
planning Boston Public Library, 20, 
25, 26, 27, 33, 35-36, 42, 103; 
letters to and from Edward Everett, 
2325; appointed to first Board of 
Trustees, 26; drafts much of Trus- 
tee's first report, 2733; ^ s unsuc- 
cessful plan for uniting Boston 
Athenaeum and Boston Public Li- 
brary, 38-40; Commissioner for 
building Boylston Street library, 45, 
47, 51; letter from Joshua Bates, 48; 
efforts in collecting boots, 49; goes 
to Europe on behalf of library, 49- 
50; concern with popular aspects of 
library, 57-58, 62-63, 123; gifts of 
books, 62-64, 119; becomes Presi- 
dent, 66; letter to Jewett, quoted, 
119, 130; modesty of his administra- 
tion contrasted to that of W. W. 
Greenough, 119; death, 93; bust 
by Martin Millmore, 93 

Ticknor Library, 62-64, 93, 96, 119, 
161, 218 

Todd, William C., gift from, for news- 
paper collection, 170171 

Tosti, Cardinal, his collection of en- 
gravings, 93, 237 

Treasure Room, 219 

Trinity Church as beneficiary under 
J. H. Benton's will, 205, 235236 

Trustees of Boston Public Library, 
established, 27; first report quoted, 
2734; number and tenure altered, 
7 07 1 ; incorporated, 109-111; 
number fixed at five, 112; satire up- 
on their management of library, 
112-114; criticisms of their admin- 
istration, 116117, 127, 206208, 
226-228; solemn examples of their 
self-satisfaction, 117-118, 127-129, 
189, 226-227; their dignified re- 
sistance to pressure for unwise cen- 
sorship, 122; their refusal to sep- 
arate readers by classes, 154156; 
appointments to, 227; rotation of 
presidency of, 228 

Twentieth Regiment Association, gifts 
from, 149, 172 

Uphams Comer Branch Library, 212 
Upper Hall in Boylston Street library, 
65, 72; drawing of, 60 

Van Brunt, Henry, architect, 135-136 
Vane, Sir Harry, statue of, 158 
Vattemare, Alexandre, his plan for in- 
ternational exchanges, 35; descends 
upon Boston and outlines plan, 
59; tepid response of Boston, 9; 
transmits gifts of books from City 
of Paris, 9, u, 16-17, 19; varying 
opinion of, 910, 17 
Vinal, Arthur H., City Architect, 138- 
140, 143, 146 

Wadlin, Horace G., Librarian, 263; ap- 
pointed, 1 88; his administration, 
188-203; writes history of the li- 
brary, 191; resigns, 203, 204; 
quoted, 13 

Walker, Francis Amasa, Trustee, 264 

Ward, Samuel Gray, Commissioner for 

building Boylston Street library, 45, 


Ward, Thomas Wren, receives letters 
from Joshua Bates, 35, 37 

Ware, Henry, Keeper of Bates Hall, 


Ware, William R., architect, 135 
Warren, George W., of City Council, 

appointed to first Board of Trustees, 



27; by irresponsible remarks unin- 
tentionally defeats plan for union 
with Boston Athenaeum, 39-40 
Warren, J. Mason, gift from, 19 
Warren Street Branch Library, 2,12 
Washington, George, gold medal com- 
memorating evacuation of Boston 
presented to, given to Boston Public 
Library, 94 
Water-closets, 91, 227 
Weld, Charles Goddard, gives statue of 

Sir Harry Vane, 158 
Wendell, Barrett, foe of Bacchante, 181 
West End Branch Library, 125126, 
174, 211212; drawing of facade, 
West Roxbury Branch Library, 174, 

212, 251 

Weston, Ezra, gift from, 19, 23 
Wheeler, William A., Assistant Super- 
intendent, 96, 97, 185 
Wheelwright, Andrew C., preserves 

West Church, 125 
Wheelwright, E. M., City Architect, 


Whipple, Edwin Percy, Trustee, 264 
Whistler, James A. McNeill, proposed 
mural paintings by, 149, 158, 159 
White, George R., gives replica of Bac- 
chante to Museum of Fine Arts, 182 
White, Stanford, architect, 140, 148 
Whitmore, William Henry, Trustee, 

135-137, 141, 146-147, I49 163, 
250251, 264 

Whitney, James Lyman, Librarian, 
263; in Catalogue Department, 96, 
97, 112, 170; appointed Acting Li- 
brarian and Librarian, 185186; his 
administration, 186187; resigns, 
187; becomes Chief of Department 
of Documents and Statistics, 187 

Wiggin, Albert H., collector of prints, 

Wigglesworth, Edward, appointed by 

Boston Athenasum to consider merg- 
er with Boston Public Library, 8 

Wilts, H. Sylvia A. H. G., bequest 
from, 244245, 249 

Williams, Harold, proposes subscription 
for mural paintings, 158 

Williams, J. D. W., gift from, 19 

Williams, Thomas, architect of Jeffries 
Point Branch Library, 213 

Wilson, George, of City Council, ap- 
pointed to first Board of Trustees, 

Winslow, W. J,, architect of Roxbury 
Branch Library, 86 

Winsor, Justin, Trustee, Superintend- 
ent, iv, 120, 164, 165, 170, 258, 
263; report as Chairman of 1867 
Examining Committee, 6774; his 
service as Superintendent, 76102; 
his responsibility for developing 
branch libraries, 84:6:, 173; his arti- 
cle "A Word to Starters of Libraries," 
100; elected President of American 
Library Association, 101, 121; praise 
of his accomplishment, 101, 105; 
scurvily treated by ignorant politi- 
cians, 106108; becomes Librarian 
of Harvard University, 106108, 
130; general consternation at his de- 
cision, 108109; loss of leadership 
by Boston Public Library with his 
departure, 112, 115116, 117; 
evolves stack principle at Harvard 
College Library, 136 

Winthrop, Robert Charles, gives public 
documents to City of Boston, 19, 20; 
Commisisoner for building Boylston 
Street library, 45-47, 54, 56, 90; 
cites Ticknor's low opinion of Vatte- 
mare, 10, 17 

Woodbury and Leighton, contractors 
for Copley Square library, 147 

Yale University Library, 2, 77, 247, 

Tfeis l?oofe, designed by Rudolph Ruzicka, the text 
set in his Fairfield Medium type, was manufactured 
by the Plimpton Press, Norwood, Massachusetts.